The high cost of fugitive cows: N.S. farmer ordered to compensate neighbours for trampled lawn

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“I am satisfied that a pleasant and well-kept farm … has been torn apart by the roaming cattle,” wrote the judge

Author of the article:

Tristin Hopper

Publication date:

October 08, 202122 hours agoRead for 3 minutes 14 comments A minor claims judge ordered a farmer in rural Nova Scotia to redeem his neighbors after his cows repeatedly destroyed their lawns and gardens, leaving A minor claims judge ordered a farmer in rural Nova Scotia to redeem his neighbors after his cows repeatedly destroyed their lawns and gardens, leaving “pits and holes” in all landscaping. Photo by Getty Images

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In an unusually flowery court ruling from rural Nova Scotia, a minor claims judge ordered a farmer to compensate his neighbors after his cows repeatedly destroyed lawn and garden.

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“I am pleased that a pleasant and well-kept yard … has been torn apart by the roaming animals,” wrote Judge Raffi A. Balmanoukian in an October 1 ruling by the Nova Scotia Small Claims Court.

The case was brought by Muirheads Susan and Frederick, who live in an apartment building in New Glasgow, NS, adjacent to a field owned by Allan MacKenzie, a retired dairy farmer.

Since moving in, the Muirheads have found their property overrun by MacKenzie’s escaped cows on four separate occasions.

“This land is soft. Cows are heavy, ”wrote Balmanoukian, who at a hearing had to carefully examine the detailed photographic evidence of the cows’ path of destruction.

There were “pits and holes” and significant amounts of fertilizer throughout the landscaping. The Muirheads also reported damage to their flower garden “and other flora”.

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“The holes and ruts are well established,” says the decision.

At best, gardening is a Sisyphus exercise

The question of the escaped cows had initially been resolved amicably between the two neighbors; MacKenzie retrieved the roving cows and paid the Muirheads a “nominal” fee for their trouble.

But as it kept happening, court documents paint a picture of MacKenzie not only unable to contain his roving herds, but also unwilling to pay anything but token for the destruction caused, compared to the thousands of dollars the Muirheads deemed necessary.

After the fourth such case, in which their farm was trampled by cows, the Muirheads commissioned $ 23,000 worth of landscape repairs and sent the bill to MacKenzie.

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At a hearing, MacKenzie countered that the repairs could have been done using only a few hundred dollars’ worth of topsoil and a friend using a tractor.

Balmanoukian flatly rejected this argument. “I accept the yard needs a professional repair,” he wrote. “It’s not a job for ‘a guy with a tractor’ or a weekend warrior.”

The judge also raised doubts about MacKenzie’s farm entrepreneur’s ability to properly repair a residential lawn. Although MacKenzie cited the excellent work of his contact in a nearby hay field, Balmanoukian noted that the field was “now full of geese”.

The judge added that a hay field is “not a lawn”.

But Balmanoukian was also critical of the Muirheads, deciding that they overdone with landscaping fees.

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“The plaintiffs are not entitled to an Aladdin turf on which old sward is exchanged for new one at the defendant’s expense,” he wrote. The judge also dismissed the Muirheads’ attempt to claim the cost of the mowing.

“Gardening is at best a Sisyphean job – the lawn has to be mowed with or without repairs,” wrote Balmanoukian.

The final award was only about half of the $ 23,000 plaintiffs originally requested, and Balmanoukian also declined her attempt to bill MacKenzie $ 25 an hour for the administrative time it took to process the Cow damage had expended. But he gave them $ 350 for cleaning up the crap.

“(This) is more than adequate for a rather uncomfortable task,” wrote Balmanoukian.

Balmanoukian based his decision on a groundbreaking British case that is almost as old as Canada itself. Rylands v. Fletcher, ruled by the House of Lords in 1868, incriminated a landowner whose seedy reservoir eventually flooded a neighbor’s fields.

The case set a precedent across the Commonwealth that landowners were in need of compensation if they owned things that were “likely to wreak havoc if they escaped.”

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