By Andru McCracken

Tom Ryan would like to solve an eight year old legal dispute between TRC Cedar Ltd. and the McBride Community Forest Corporation (MCFC) with both parties capitalizing on a contract to provide cedar mulch to a major American retailer, Menards Inc. But MCFC claims the ongoing legal dispute has prevented the parties from talking.

The lawsuit
TRC Cedar Ltd. filed a civil lawsuit against the McBride Community Forest Corporation for allegedly breaching a contract to supply cedar logs over the period of June 1, 2010 to May 31, 2011.

According to Ryan’s lawsuit, he was to purchase cedar logs delivered to his mill for $30 per tonne.

Ryan claims the MCFC failed to deliver 8,000 tonnes of cedar logs by October 31, 2011 and an additional 7,000 tonnes by May 31, 2011 as required by the contract. Without the wood, Ryan said he was unable to supply US home improvement retailer Menards Inc. with product.

In the lawsuit Ryan is alleged to have lost profits, mill conversion costs (made to efficiently produce post, rails and mulch) and the salary for an American Sales Manager to obtain sales contracts in the US.

TRC Cedar Ltd. is suing for damages, interest, and costs.

MCFC’s response to TRC’s civil claim filed on October 26, 2012 alleged that TRC Cedar Ltd. was unable to pay for logs. MCFC also claims that log delivery was delayed through conditions beyond their control.

“However, the defendant was, otherwise, ready, willing, and able to perform the Contract.”

MCFC is asking the court to order TRC Cedar Ltd. to pay their court costs.

Ryan said that the contract was worth $450,000 and that it cost his operation $1.5 million.

MCFC Position
MCFC Chair Joseph Rich wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit other than to say they are not in a position to enter into talks with Ryan because of the pending lawsuit.

“[The lawsuit] is ongoing,” said Rich.

Councillor Lucille Green, who sits on the community forest board, explained the stakes.

“We can’t say anything because our lawyer said you can’t say anything without jeopardizing our position,” said Green. “When you are in the middle of litigation with somebody, and his lawyer is not talking to our lawyer, and he’s coming to us directly… we can’t talk because anything we say or do could jeopardize our legal case.”

The opportunity
Ryan said he got a call out of the blue recently from Menards Inc. asking whether he could fulfill a contract to supply bagged mulch to the company. Ryan said the contract could bring $1.8 million dollars into McBride.

He believes the contract could generate the money owed to him by the community forest.

“I know we can turn the profits of that community forest in one year to more than pay for this [settlement],” he said. “The lawsuit will allow a judge to decide our fate. So let’s go pay all these lawyers all this money, and then let somebody else decide because we’ve not even got enough guts or enough knowledge to sit down and discuss it with each other.”

Ryan said he believes that he will win the lawsuit but worries about his family’s reputation.

“Are they going to be in the wrong? Are we going to be in the wrong?” he said. “We’re going to be looked at that we took advantage of the community? So why not sit down and try to figure something out that’d work for both of us?”

Ryan said if the community forest accepted advice on how to fulfill the mulch contract, they could make enough money in profit in a year to pay the damages he is owed and save the legal fees too.