Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs Vancouver Island man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

A dispute between two neighbours in Campbell River in which one intended to “upset, offend and cause stress,” has resulted in more than $16,000 in damages, according to a recent decision in B.C. provincial court.

Judge Catherine Crockett made her decision July 31, against Reno Pellegrin in his dispute with John and Sherri Wheeldon which lasted more than six years, primarily involving a concrete retaining wall between two neighbouring properties.

In 2008, the Wheeldons constructed a sports court at the back of their lot, and a concrete retaining wall between their property and the Pellegrin’s. Due to a miscalculation of the property line and the fact the concrete spread, part of the wall ended up on the Pellegrin property.

In her decision, Crockett noted the error was inadvertent, not intentional.

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She also explained Pellegrin testified that despite the wall being on his land, it was also to his benefit, as it effectively shored up his yard, which is higher than the Wheeldons’ property.

Around 2013 to 2014, the cordial relationship between the neighbours broke down. In April 2014, Pellegrin dumped approximately 20 pounds of dog feces on the Pellegrin/Wheeldon property line.

Crockett said it is clear the retaining wall constitutes an ongoing trespass. On Dec. 15, 2015, Pellegrin took the position he was entitled to remove the wall, and partially took it down with a jackhammer. He estimated he removed 14 inches from the top.

“Mr. Pellegrin submits that spraypainting the word ‘Remove’ on the wall in May and June of 2015 was a form of warning, as was his letter of June 9, 2014,” she wrote.

In the decision, Crockett reviewed videos of Pellegrin taking down the wall. Some of the statements she heard from Pellegrin on the videos include: “Hope you and yours have a merry merry Xmas …. This is what happens when you don’t get along with your neighbours …. Call the cops about every little thing. Call bylaws and animal control about every little thing. Here’s what happens.”

She said Pellegrin created a dangerous situation with concrete falling to the ground, jackhammering at the level of people’s faces and causing the fence to fall.

“The evidence also establishes, quite clearly, that Mr. Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice … in short, this was a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act.”

Crockett added while the law does permit a person to remove a trespass or nuisance in certain circumstances, “this is not the case.”

There was no urgency to the situation. The wall caused him no harm. In fact, as he testified, the wall benefited him, she wrote. “His jackhammering of the wall was anything but a proportionate response to the trespass. There was nothing approaching ‘exceptional circumstances’ to justify his action.”

Due to trespassing, Crockett awarded $2 in favour of Pellegrin against the Wheeldons: $1 for walking onto Pellegrin’s property on various dates and another dollar for the ongoing trespass of the retaining wall.

She awarded $16,801 to the Wheeldons which included $6,300 to replace the retaining wall, $6,000 in general damages and $2,500 in general, aggravated and punitive damages for various repeated nuisances and trespasses.

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