By Patrick Meagher
TORONTO — A Port Perry crop farmer, who lost his farming and trucking business and was forced from his home in a court decision, has launched a huge lawsuit seeking $80 million against three parties.
Harry Vale, 65, in Durham Region, is seeking $40 million in damages from St. Lawrence Grains and Farm Supply, a licensed grain elevator at Stouffville, for breach of contract, conspiracy and fraud. The lawsuit is also seeking $40 million in damages from Vale’s former lawyer James Morton for breach of contract, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.
The lawsuit was also filed against St. Lawrence Grains and Farm Supply sales manager Richard McNamara for fraud, theft, conspiracy and negligence. None of the allegations have been tested in court.
In a telephone interview, defendant James Morton told Farmers Forum: “All I can say is that I have passed the claim on to my lawyer and, from my own standpoint, I don’t see any validity to the claim against me.”
He added: “Harry (Vale) has certainly had a hard time. I’ll go that far and I have no problem with you saying that I said that.”
Farmers Forum reached Dwight Corcoran at St. Lawrence Grains who declined to clarify his position with the company, saying: “I have no comment at all. “
Any further comments from the defendants will be posted online at www.farmersforum.com and will appear in the March issue.
The lawsuit states that Vale had been a St. Lawrence Grain customer for 20 years. He sold grain to the elevator and purchased from them fertilizer, seed, pesticides and other supplies. Vale also hauled grain for St. Lawrence Grains.
The lawsuit states that the problems began for Vale in 2010 when St. Lawrence Grains’ Richard McNamara told Vale he owed St. Lawrence Grains $2 million that would be later reduced to $822,000 if Vale signed a new agreement. The new agreement granted the grain company a “collateral mortgage” over Vale’s property for the amount of $850,000, the state of claim says.
To get crop into the ground in time, Vale entered into the first of several new agreements with St. Lawrence Grains to ensure that Vale would receive the necessary inputs and avoid risking bankruptcy, the lawsuit states. Vale cropped upwards of 3,500 acres on rented land and owned 16 transport trucks.
Vale, however, disagreed that he owed any money and figured he had a surplus with St. Lawrence Grains of more than $1 million.
Nevertheless, a court ordered Vale out of his house last year to pay his debts.
The lawsuit states that St. Lawrence Grains’ “accounting was inaccurate, self serving and fabricated to make it appear that the plaintiff had not paid down his debt.”
Vale continued to operate a crop farm under contracts with St. Lawrence Grains over the next three years. After the 2013 farming season, Vale and St. Lawrence Grains parted ways, the statement of claim says.
The lawsuit says that Vale repaid the alleged debt and actually overpaid it by $589,000.
The lawsuit states that St. Lawrence Grains “allowed employees to deposit cheques meant for the plaintiff in their own personal accounts without (Vale’s) knowledge or consent and without a proper, if any, accounting.”
The lawsuit also argues that cheques that Vale should have received went into McNamara’s personal bank account.
The lawsuit states that St. Lawrence Grains did not provide Vale with financial documents such as deposit records and “provided false documentation to the court to cause the court to appoint a receiver over the plaintiff’s assets and ultimately disposing of the plaintiff’s assets.”