By Patrick Meagher
PORT PERRY — The lawyer for St. Lawrence Grains and Farm Supply has demanded more information from a Port Perry crop farmer who launched a $40-million lawsuit against the Stouffville grain elevator.
Harry Vale, 65, is seeking $40 million in damages from St. Lawrence Grains and Farm Supply for breach of contract, conspiracy and fraud. None of the allegations have been tested in court.
After the lawsuit was filed, St. Lawrence Grains’ lawyer Dom Magisano, of Lerners Law Firm in Toronto, sent Vale’s Toronto lawyer, Glenroy Bastien, a “demand for particulars,” asking for clarification of the allegations and specifics to back up the lawsuit. Bastien was on holiday and could not be reached for comment.
Speaking to Farmers Forum, Magisano declined to comment, saying, “I generally have a policy that I don’t talk to the media about specific lawsuits until they are resolved one way or another.”
He added that when Vale’s company was in receivership a court officer did a “forensic accounting” of the business relationship between Vale and St. Lawrence Grains. “Court orders were made,” he said. “Many were appealed and upheld.”
Vale lost his farming and grain hauling business and fleet of 16 trucks and was forced from his Port Perry home last year following a court decision that allowed St. Lawrence Grains to sell Vales’ assets after his company fell into receivership. In one ruling, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Oshawa determined that Vale owed St. Lawrence Grains $628,553.
In an interview with Farmers Forum, Vale said that he and his wife are now renting in Aurora, north of Toronto. “We’re trying to survive,” Vale said.“I’m driving a truck.”
Vale’s lawsuit was also filed against St. Lawrence Grains and Farm Supply sales manager Richard McNamara for fraud, theft, conspiracy and negligence. None of these allegations have been tested in court.
The lawsuit states that Vale had been a St. Lawrence Grain customer for 20 years. He sold grain to the elevator and purchased from it fertilizer, seed, pesticides and other supplies. Vale also hauled grain for St. Lawrence Grains.
The lawsuit also states that the problems began for Vale in 2010 when there was a disagreement over how much money Vale owed St. Lawrence Grains. The lawsuit says 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 operated a crop farm under contracts with St. Lawrence Grains until after the 2013 farming season when Vale and St. Lawrence Grains parted ways, the lawsuit says.
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.”
In cross-examination of St. Lawrence Grains sales manager Richard McNamara in Toronto on Nov. 3, 2014, McNamara said that three cheques (for $300, $1,400, and $3,800) from Syngenta to Harry Vale were endorsed but one was not deposited into Vale’s account.
McNamara said that he had authority to endorse cheques to Vale. When McNamara was asked if the three cheques were deposited in one of McNamara’s accounts, McNamara replied: “That $3,800 one looks like it may have been.”
“So, that would have been a personal account of yours?” McNamara was asked.
“Yes,” McNamara replied.
When asked why the cheque would have been deposited in his personal account, McNamara replied: “I don’t know why we did that,” and then clarified, “Or I, I did that.”
Vale is also seeking $40 million in damages from his former lawyer James Morton for breach of contract, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. Those allegations have not been tested in court.