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In the midst of all the intellectual trauma he was being put through in that other file on his desk (Bruni v Bruni, [2010] USFJDO 1), Mr. Justice Joseph W. Quinn of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice warmed up his penmanship with the used-car sale trial of Kalimuddin Pirbhai v Gurnek Singh which dragged on for four years, starting in 2004, continuing in 2006 and again in 2007 and 2008 with reasons, finally, issued in May of 2010.

Here, at the editorial offices of the USFJDO law report, we have slightly re-ordered the judgment from the original in incorporating the footnotes to within the judgment where they belong, and one little movement of a sentence to where it also belonged.

J.W. Quinn, his Lordship, hardly needs much of an introduction. If nothing else, his Honour knows how to start a judgment, even one with such a dry topic as a used-car sale gone very, very bad.
 

A friend of a friend is not necessarily your friend.

Interestingly, I suspect that this trial may be more a response to cultural betrayal than the pursuit of damages.

In 1999, the plaintiff was in the market for a used, high-end motor vehicle. A friend of his said that he had a friend who could supply such a vehicle. Ten years, and 31 days of trial, later, that transaction is finally completed. The plaintiff ended up with an expensive bargain.

The trial was most notable for revealing the defendant, Gurnek Singh (“Singh”), to be unblinkingly dishonest. He shows no aptitude for the truth; he is without a conscience; he is incorrigible. If lies were clothes, Singh would have been considerably overdressed for the trial. Singh should not be permitted to conduct any commercial business in the Province of Ontario that brings him into contact with members of the public.

used car lotSingh was born in India and immigrated to the United Kingdom in 1984 where he worked in an auto-body shop. He came to Canada in 1988.

He is not a licensed mechanic in this country.

Singh is the owner of the defendant, Sarwan Auto Sales (“Sarwan”), and the defendant, Brampton Auto Collision Centre Inc. (“Brampton Auto”). Both operate out of the same premises in the City of Brampton, Ontario, and each loosely, very loosely, carries on the business that its name implies.

The plaintiff is a medical doctor, practising and residing in the City of St. Catharines. The plaintiff and his witnesses were highly credible and gave their evidence in a straightforward manner.

Singh, on the other hand, is a devious man and an unbelievable witness who will do or say anything to advance his position. Indeed, by the end of the trial, if Singh were to have testified that the world was round, I immediately would have sought membership in the Flat Earth Society.

He was maddeningly unwilling to respond to the simplest of questions and often had to be asked the same question over and over (no doubt using the time gained to visit his pantry of untruthful answers). He was evasive, non-responsive and verbose in his testimony. Throughout the trial, I patiently waited for a Phoenix-like moment that might serve to rehabilitate his credibility: it never came. All in all, he was an exasperating witness who told untruths too numerous to catalogue and insulting in their breadth. I feel somewhat responsible for this as I must have done or said something during the trial that caused Singh to believe that I was dim-witted....

Singh ... offered an explanation that fell somewhere between a yarn and a fairy tale....

Singh called Henryk Pietraszek as a witness. Mr. Pietraszek had performed, for Singh, the initial structural safety test on the Lexus. Singh hoped to establish, through Mr. Pietraszek, that, when he inspected the Lexus, it was not in the condition later recorded by Messrs. Bruno, Neblett and Grimaldi. However, when examined for discovery in 2001 (some eight years before he testified at trial), Mr. Pietraszek was asked, “Do you have any actual memory of checking this particular car?” He answered, “No. Honestly, no.” This may have been the first and only truthful molecule of evidence tendered by the defence in the trial.

Although Mr. Pietraszek insists that his memory has improved since then, I am envious at the thought but not persuaded....

Singh’s casual and haphazard approach to his business and corporate structure and, more importantly, his fraudulent conduct in this case, vitiate the benefit of limited liability available through the process of incorporation and, therefore, in my opinion, attract personal liability. The corporate veil here was more of a bandit’s mask.

In the result of this automotive mess judicially disected, Defendant Singh was hit for $50,000 in punitive damages and $33,465 in general damages, all over a used Lexus sale gone horribly bad.
 

REFERENCES:

  • Pirbhai v. Singh et al., [2010] USFJDO 2; also at 2010 ONSC 2446