A B.C. judge has awarded a business $90,000 in a defamation suit against a “disgruntled customer.”
Premier Finance Ltd. doing business as Longhouse Specialty Forest Products, Longhouse Forest Products, and Longhouse Cedar, Moila Jenkins and Brian Jenkins, filed a suit against former customer Tyler Ginther after they said his negative reviews adversely affected their business.
Brian Jenkins met Ginther in November 2015, as a Longhouse sales representative who was doing cold calls in the White Rock area.
Ginther was building a house there, the lawsuit states, and he had built several homes over the years.
The two men exchanged contact information after discussing cedar soffits and siding and Jenkins recommended hemlock as an economical alternative to cedar for soffits, which protect rafters from the elements.
Jenkins then visited the site on Dec. 16, 2015, with a sample of the hemlock soffit. Ginther then said he wanted cedar siding with a stain that matched the windows and he emailed Moila with his Visa card number and authorized her to charge $7,500 to “get things rolling.”
In January, Ginther emailed Jenkins to say he wanted the soffits delivered around the middle of the month and asked for some cedar samples.
On Feb. 2, 2016, Ginther texted Jenkins to say he was “probably two weeks out from taking the soffit order” and asked if that timing worked.
He specified that the stain for the soffits was to be Cloverdale Messmers oak stain brown, according to the lawsuit. Jenkins asked if that was for both the cedar and the hemlock, and Ginther responded: “Just hemlock I will confirm cedar.”
On Feb. 10, 2016, Moila emailed Ginther saying she was couriering cedar samples to him and attached a confirmation notice dated Feb. 3.
It revised the amount of hemlock and confirmed the stain. Ginther responded with a note to remove some of the trim and noted some products’ stain colour was still undecided.
Moila then emailed Ginther making those changes and attaching a revised confirmation.
Further correspondence noted the cedar stain had still not been decided. Ginther’s credit card was charged with his approval, less the $7,500 deposit, for a total of $14,428.62.
When the soffits were delivered, Ginther was very unhappy with the quality of the stain, the lawsuit states and he complained to Jenkins.
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Longhouse retrieved the soffits, re-stained them, and redelivered them to the site in mid-March. Ginther said he was still very dissatisfied with the stain. However, he accepted delivery and installed them because he did not want to delay construction, the lawsuit states.
“On March 31, 2016, Ginther noticed the charge from Longhouse on his credit card statement, which included both the soffits and the siding. He contacted Ms. Jenkins (Moila) by phone and email. He said that he had not ordered the cedar siding and that the quality of stain on the soffits was unacceptable,” according to the lawsuit. “He demanded a refund of the charge for the siding ($6,902.07) plus an additional $1,000, which was his estimate of 50 per cent of the cost of re-staining the hemlock soffits. He added that if the refund was not processed by the next day, he would be calling ‘visa fraud’.”
This is when matters deteriorated between the two. Ginther did complain to Visa but the company dismissed the matter.
Sixteen months later, in November 2017, Ginther posted a review on Google. It stated:
“Beware of the cedar supplier, poor product, poor customer service, late delivery and just to add to the misery overcharged my visa by $7000 more than value of product….. I would strongly caution anyone from using Longhouse cedar products but if you do decide to risk using them…. Do not prepay this firm a nickel and take every precaution to protect yourself and your credit, they are fraudulent, cheating and deceitful and it starts at the top!!!! ….”
On Jan. 3, 2018, Ginther posted a review on Yelp. It stated:
“Longhouse Cedar Products was late on delivery of soffit wood material, it was returned back to Longhouse cedar due to inferior staining. It was explained to us that they had been having issues with the spray gun. We received the product back 8 weeks later with very little change in stain finish and colour. At time of delivery we were required to pay the last deposit of 50% which we regrettably did so. We then received our visa statement which showed they had added a further $7000 onto our bill for a cedar product that Longhouse assumed we were purchasing. This other product we had not looked at talked about or even decided we wanted to install on our home. We asked for our money back and they said the product was ready for us too pick up in there yard and it was a custom order so they wouldn’t return the funds???? wtf………… This company is not someone you can do business with, in all my years of doing business I have never come across someone who is unbelievably rude, cheats there customers on initial order, adds a fake order and then makes up a series fake invoices to cover his lies. BEWARE and DON’T TRUST THEM. Both of the principals were in on this scam….. oh and by the way Brian showed up at my home unannounced so I presume he is going thru a list of new home starts list and finding his prey in this manner. This is the first negative review on a company I have ever done……..”
Ginther said he stands by everything he said in the reviews, and did not plead any other defence.
Justice Nitya Iyer stated she found Ginther liable for defamation in the case and the reviews were defamatory and the Jenkins did their due diligence multiple times by listing the cedar and its cost.
“The only evidence supporting Mr. Ginther’s allegations of fraud is his own,” the lawsuit states. “In particular, he testified that the soffits were first delivered in mid-January, not mid-February. This would support his statement in the Yelp review that there was an eight-week delay in redelivery.”
The Jenkins family sought general, aggravated and punitive damages totaling $675,000 as well as special costs in this case.
Corporate plaintiffs cannot be awarded damages for personal distress, but may be awarded damages for injury to their business reputation.
Iyer awarded Brian and Moila Jenkins each $30,000 in general damages, plus $5,000 each for aggravated damages and awarded Longhouse $20,000 in general damages.