IN THE SUPREME COURT OF BRITISH COLUMBIA  
Citation:  
656621 B.C. Ltd. v. David Moerman Painting Ltd.,  
022 BCSC 1683  
2
Date: 20220927  
Docket: S174526  
Registry: Vancouver  
Between:  
And  
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56621 B.C. Ltd., Robert Goff and Maria Goff  
Plaintiffs  
David Moerman Painting Ltd., c.o.b. as Elite Trade Painting, Elite Trade  
Contracting Limited, University Contracting Corporation Limited, David  
Moerman, Joel Friesen, Dave Giesbrecht, Dylan Robinson, Brad Dornian,  
Mike Chan and John Doe  
Defendants  
And  
Langley Decorating Centre Inc., Visram Holdings Ltd. doing business as  
Fleetwood Paint & Decorating Centre, John Doe or ABC Company, Paul  
Loetscher, Dorothee Rosel and P&D Construction  
Third Parties  
Before: The Honourable Justice Blake  
Reasons for Judgment  
Counsel for the Plaintiffs and Third Parties,  
Paul Loetscher, Dorothee Rosel and P&D  
Construction:  
M.J. Bailey, K.C.  
R.A. Sottile  
Counsel for the Defendants, David  
A.L. Eged  
R. Shaw  
A. Lee, Articled Student  
Moerman Painting Ltd., David Moerman,  
Joel Friesen, Dave Giesbrecht, Dylan  
Robinson, Brad Dornian and Mike Chan:  
Place and Date of Trial:  
Vancouver, B.C.  
January 31,February 1-4, 7-11,  
1
4-16, 22-24, 28, March 1-4;  
April 4-8, and May 2-4, 2022  
Place and Date of Judgment:  
Vancouver, B.C.  
September 27, 2022  
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56621 B.C. Ltd. v. David Moerman Painting Ltd.  
Page 2  
Table of Contents  
I. OVERVIEW ........................................................................................................ 4  
II. ORIENTATION OF THE LODGE ....................................................................... 8  
III. ISSUES............................................................................................................... 9  
IV. BURDEN OF PROOF IN A FIRE CASE........................................................... 12  
V. RELEVANT LAY WITNESS EVIDENCE ON THE ISSUE OF LIABILITY........ 16  
A. SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION WARNINGS FOR SIKKENS STAIN ........ 16  
B. PAUL LOETSCHER, DOROTHEE ROSEL AND REAY FOSTER................ 17  
C. DAVID MOERMAN ....................................................................................... 19  
D. LOCATION OF THE STAINING MATERIALS............................................... 21  
1
2
3
. Mr. Friesen ................................................................................................ 22  
. Mr. Robinson ............................................................................................. 24  
. Mr. Dornian................................................................................................ 25  
a) Examination for Discovery Read-Ins...................................................... 25  
b) Evidence at Trial .................................................................................... 29  
. Mr. Chan.................................................................................................... 32  
. Mr. Unger................................................................................................... 33  
4
5
E. MANNER OF STORING THE STAINING MATERIALS ................................ 35  
1
2
3
. Mr. Friesen ................................................................................................ 35  
. Mr. Robinson ............................................................................................. 35  
. Mr. Dornian................................................................................................ 36  
a) Examination for Discovery ..................................................................... 36  
b) Evidence at Trial .................................................................................... 37  
F. MR. DORNIAN’S CREDIBILITY AND RELIABILITY ..................................... 39  
G. SECURITY STILLS....................................................................................... 44  
VI. EVIDENTIARY ISSUES AND DETERMINATION............................................ 47  
A. FOR WHAT PURPOSE MAY THE MOERMAN NOTES BE ADMITTED...... 47  
1
2
. Law............................................................................................................ 51  
. Analysis ..................................................................................................... 55  
B. ADVERSE INFERENCES............................................................................. 57  
1
2
. Law............................................................................................................ 58  
a) Plaintiffs must establish a prima facie case............................................ 60  
. Analysis ..................................................................................................... 62  
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56621 B.C. Ltd. v. David Moerman Painting Ltd. Page 3  
VII. FINDINGS OF FACT ON LOCATION AND MANNER OF STORAGE OF  
STAINING MATERIALS.......................................................................................... 69  
A. Location of the Staining Materials on May 16, 2016...................................... 70  
B. Manner of Storage of the Staining Materials May 16, 2016........................... 71  
VIII. EXPERT EVIDENCE ON ORIGIN AND CAUSE OF THE FIRE: MR. BROAD,  
MR. REED AND DR. CRAFT .................................................................................. 74  
A. Mr. Broad ...................................................................................................... 74  
B. Mr. Reed ....................................................................................................... 84  
C. Dr. Steven Craft ............................................................................................ 87  
IX. EXPERT EVIDENCE ON SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION: MR. BOSHARD  
AND DR. DAVID HOWITT....................................................................................... 89  
A. Mr. Boshard................................................................................................... 89  
B. Dr. David Howitt ............................................................................................ 90  
X. ANALYSIS OF LIABILITY................................................................................ 96  
A. Standard of Care for Storing the Staining Materials...................................... 96  
B. Origin of the Fire ........................................................................................... 96  
C. Causation of the Fire..................................................................................... 97  
1
2
3
. Location of Storage of the Staining Materials ............................................ 97  
. Manner of Storage of Staining Materials.................................................... 97  
. Fire Spread................................................................................................ 99  
XI. CONCLUSION................................................................................................ 100  
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56621 B.C. Ltd. v. David Moerman Painting Ltd.  
Page 4  
I.  
OVERVIEW  
[
1]  
On the evening of May 16, 2016 a building in a remote area of Jervis Inlet  
near Malibu Point was completely destroyed by a fire. The plaintiffs allege that the  
fire was caused by the spontaneous combustion of oil-soaked staining materials  
which had been used that day to commence staining a building. They say that the  
defendants, the Moerman Stainers (as defined below) negligently stored the oil-  
soaked staining materials which, as a result, spontaneously combusted, and that the  
defendants the Moerman Stainers, David Moerman and his company, David  
Moerman Painting Ltd., are responsible at law for the total destruction of the  
building.  
[
2]  
The plaintiff 656621 B.C. Ltd. is the legal owner of the property on which the  
building stood, and the plaintiffs Robert and Maria Goff are the beneficial owners of  
the property (the “Goff Property”). The Goff Property is comprised of a number of  
buildings, which include the main lodge, the building ultimately destroyed by the fire,  
(the “Lodge”), a dormitory (the “Dorm”), a writer’s cabin, a chapel, and two power  
houses. It is a remote property which can only be accessed from the water. The  
construction of the Lodge was finished in approximately 2006, and shortly after its  
completion a security camera system was installed at the Goff Property by Mr. Goff,  
with the assistance of Peter Talbot.  
[
3]  
Upon completion, the Lodge was stained with an oil based stain product  
called Sikkens Proluxe Cetol SRD RE in natural oak 005 (the “Stain”). All of the  
buildings and railings at the Goff Property were stained with the Stain.  
[
4]  
Mr. and Mrs. Goff testified that the Goff Property was a special place for their  
family to spend time together during the summer, and that numerous guests spent  
time at the Goff Property with them over the years. It was important to them that they  
kept the Goff Property in pristine condition, and they maintained it to the very best of  
their ability. They employed full time caretakers on site, the third parties Paul  
Loetscher and Dorothee Rosel, who provided caretaking services to the Goffs  
personally, and from 2013 onwards provided their services through P & D  
 
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56621 B.C. Ltd. v. David Moerman Painting Ltd.  
Page 5  
Construction. Until May 2016 there were no major issues of any sort at the Goff  
Property neither electrical maladies, mechanical issues, propane leaks or any  
other issue outside of regular care and maintenance.  
[
5]  
On November 10, 2015 the defendant David Moerman emailed Mr. Goff to  
discuss a book Mr. Goff had written. Mr. Goff realized Mr. Moerman owned and  
operated a painting company, reviewed his website, and ultimately retained him,  
through his company David Moerman Painting Ltd., to stain four of the buildings at  
the Goff Property in May 2016. In April 2016 Mr. Goff hired Reay Foster to assist  
Mr. Loetscher and Ms. Rosel in readying the Goff Property for the Goffs’ arrival for  
the summer of 2016.  
[
6]  
Mr. Moerman was advised by Ms. Rosel that a Sikkens stain was previously  
used on the buildings at the Goff Property, and it was ultimately arranged that  
Mr. Moerman would pick up the necessary amount of the Stain to bring to the Goff  
Property. Mr. Moerman advised Ms. Rosel that he had a “really good crew of 3-4  
workers” who would be available to do the work. At trial it was clear that  
Mr. Moerman hired five workers to do the job in early May 2016; namely, the  
defendants Brad Dornian, Dave Giesbrecht, Mike Chan, Joel Friesen and Dylan  
Robinson (the “Moerman Stainers”). Of the Moerman Stainers, Mr. Dornian was the  
only one with any experience painting (although he had no experience using oil  
based stains), and so he was the crew leader. Mr. Moerman did not provide any of  
the Moerman Stainers with any training or instruction. Further, he did not alert them  
to the fact that oil-based products, of which the Stain was one, were flammable, and  
that rags soiled with the Stain could spontaneously heat and catch fire if they were  
stored in a way that does not follow the instructions on the warning label.  
[
7]  
Mr. Moerman picked up the Stain from two decorating stores: Langley  
Decorating Centre (on May 12, 2016) and Fleetwood Painting and Decorating (on  
May 14, 2016). He provided the Stain to Mr. Dornian, who together with the rest of  
the Moerman Stainers arrived at the Goff Property on May 15, 2016. Upon their  
arrival, Mr. Dornian met with Mr. Loetscher and discussed where they should start  
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56621 B.C. Ltd. v. David Moerman Painting Ltd.  
Page 6  
staining the Lodge. The two agreed that it would be best if the Moerman Stainers  
began to stain on what I will refer to throughout these reasons as the “Leftside of  
the Lodge (being the side of the Lodge which generally faced west, and was  
adjacent to the ocean). There was unfortunately significant confusion throughout the  
litigation by the parties about how to refer to the four sides of the Lodge. This  
confusion became a significant issue at trial, and is dealt with in further detail below.  
[
8]  
However, the evidence is clear that on the morning of May 16, 2016 the  
Moerman Stainers began to stain the Left side of the Lodge, commencing at the  
front left corner (the south west corner) and moving along the Left side of the Lodge  
during the day. They completed the majority of the staining on the Left side of the  
Lodge, stored their materials, including some of the remaining Stain, brushes, soiled  
rags and a drop cloth (the “Staining Materials”), and returned to the Dorm for dinner,  
recreation time, and eventually to sleep. Where the Moerman Stainers left the  
Staining Materials, and how they were stored, are the central issues in this litigation.  
[
9]  
At approximately 10:30 pm Mr. Giesbrecht saw fire at the Lodge (the “Fire”)  
from the balcony at the Dorm, and alerted the others. Mr. Loetscher quickly realized  
it was not safe to stay at the Goff Property, and arranged for everyone on site to be  
removed by boat to the nearby Malibu Lodge.  
[
10] The Fire was what origin and cause fire investigators refer to as a “complete  
burn”, and destroyed the Lodge entirely. Only the foundation was left by the next  
morning.  
[
11] Mr. Goff was alerted about the Fire, either late on May 16 or early on May 17,  
and immediately accessed the Lodge’s surveillance camera system and took screen  
shots of a number of the surveillance images. Most importantly he took screen shots  
of the security stills taken at 10:36 from the clifftop camera (the “10:36 Still”), 10:56  
from a camera mounted on a tree above the roof of the Dorm (the “10:56 Still”),  
1
1:01 from the great room camera inside the Lodge (the “11:01 Still”) and 11:11 also  
from the clifftop camera, showing the Lodge fully engulfed in flames (the “11:11  
Still”). Mr. and Mrs. Goff attended at the Goff Property on May 17.  
 
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56621 B.C. Ltd. v. David Moerman Painting Ltd.  
Page 7  
[
12] The Moerman Stainers left Malibu Lodge the morning of May 17, and on May  
8 met with Mr. Moerman at his condominium to discuss what had happened the  
1
day of the Fire. Mr. Moerman made notes on his computer of his conversation with  
the Moerman Stainers at the time of this meeting (the “Moerman Notes”). He did not  
provide a draft of the Moerman Notes to any of the Moerman Stainers.  
[
13] As the Lodge was completely destroyed in the Fire, there is a dearth of  
physical evidence surrounding the origin and cause of the Fire. The critical evidence  
is that of Mr. Dornian, Mr. Friesen and Mr. Robinson, who cleaned up the work site  
at the end of the day on May 16, and who are the only witnesses who can testify as  
to the location in which the Staining Materials were left, and the manner in which  
they were stored. Mr. Dornian was the only one of the three to testify at trial.  
[
14] The plaintiffs rely upon two experts in the area of origin and cause, and  
spread and dynamics, of fires: Mr. Scott Broad, who they tender as an expert in the  
origin and cause of fires; and Dr. Steven Craft, who they tender as an expert in fire  
spread and dynamics. The defendants rely upon Christopher Reed who they tender  
as an expert in fire origin and cause determination, and fire progression and  
dynamics analysis. The weight given to the evidence of each of these experts is  
impacted significantly by the extent to which the facts they assumed to be true were  
proven at trial.  
[
15] The plaintiffs also rely upon the expert evidence of Greg Boshard, who they  
tender as an expert in the standard of care for storing stain soaked rags; and  
Dr. David Howitt, who they tender as an expert in the phenomenon of spontaneous  
combustion.  
[
16] This case turns on the sufficiency of the admissible evidence tendered at trial.  
It is a circumstantial evidence case. The plaintiffs say that common sense requires  
that I draw the inference that the Fire was caused by the negligence of the Moerman  
Stainers.  
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56621 B.C. Ltd. v. David Moerman Painting Ltd. Page 8  
[
17] The defendants say the plaintiffs have failed to prove, on a balance of  
probabilities, their theory that the Staining Materials spontaneously combusted and  
caused the Fire. They do not suggest an alternate theory of the origin and cause of  
the Fire, and they are not obliged at law to do so.  
[
18] I must determine whether the plaintiffs have proven on a balance of  
probabilities that the defendants were negligent in the manner in which they stored  
their Staining Materials at the end of the work day on May 16, and that those  
staining materials spontaneously combusted and caused the Fire. However, by the  
end of trial, this case ultimately became one which turns not just on circumstantial  
evidence and the drawing of reasonable inferences, but also on two critical  
evidentiary rulings which arose late in the trial which I must determine in these  
reasons for judgment (which are set out in detail below). Upon a careful review of all  
of the admissible evidence tendered by the parties at trial, and upon determining the  
two evidentiary issues, I have concluded that the plaintiffs have failed to prove on a  
balance of probabilities that the Fire was caused by the negligent storage of the  
Staining Materials by the Moerman Stainers.  
II.  
ORIENTATION OF THE LODGE  
[
19] From the time of the Fire, confusion over the appropriate description of the  
four sides of the Lodge plagued the parties, the witnesses and the experts. This  
unfortunate disorientation continued through the examinations for discovery and in  
fact up to the time of trial. To an extent, the confusion arose from both the unique  
orientation of the Lodge and the fact that the Fire completely destroyed the Lodge.  
[
20] It was of great assistance that counsel settled on and used the following  
terms at trial, which I will also use in these reasons for judgment:  
a) “Front” is the side of the Lodge generally facing south;  
b) “Left” is the side of the Lodge when facing the Front that is the left or  
oceanside of the Lodge, generally facing west and adjacent to the ocean;  
 
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56621 B.C. Ltd. v. David Moerman Painting Ltd.  
Page 9  
c) “Right” is the side of the Lodge when facing the Front that is to the right or  
mountain side of the Lodge, generally facing east; and  
d) “Back” is the opposite side of the Lodge as compared to the Front,  
generally facing north.  
However, notwithstanding I will use these defined terms, the lack of specificity in the  
manner in which various key witnesses described the four sides of the Lodge was a  
significant issue in the evidence.  
III.  
ISSUES  
[
21] The central issue raised in this litigation is liability. I must determine whether  
the plaintiffs have produced admissible evidence at trial which is sufficient to enable  
me to draw the reasonable inference that the Fire was caused by the spontaneous  
combustion of the Staining Materials: in the location the plaintiffs allege the Fire  
started; and as a result of the manner in which the Moerman Stainers stored the  
Staining Materials at the end of the day. Put another way, have the plaintiffs proven  
on a balance of probabilities that David Moerman Painting Ltd., Mr. Moerman and  
the Moerman Stainers (the Moerman Defendants”) should be found to be  
responsible at law for the damages to the Goff Property as a result of the Fire, or is  
the origin and cause of the Fire unable to be determined? For ease of reference I  
will refer to the Moerman Defendants as the defendants, as the remaining  
defendants settled with the plaintiffs before trial and entered into a B.C. Ferry  
Settlement.  
[
22] This trial is only on the determination of liability, as the parties have agreed on  
the quantum of damages. If I determine that the plaintiffs have proven that the Fire  
was caused by the negligence of the Moerman Stainers, I must then determine if  
any of the other defendants, the third parties, or the plaintiffs are also liable, and  
apportion liability accordingly.  
 
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56621 B.C. Ltd. v. David Moerman Painting Ltd. Page 10  
[
23] To establish liability for the Fire, the plaintiffs must prove, on a balance of  
probabilities, that the admissible evidence (and the reasonable inferences I may  
make from the evidence) establishes the origin and cause of the Fire, namely, that:  
a) the Staining Materials were stored by the Moerman Stainers, at the end of  
the work day on May 16, in the location identified by the plaintiffs’ experts  
as being the location the Fire originated - namely the Back of the Lodge;  
b) the Staining Materials were stored in a manner which breached the  
standard of care for storage of rags soaked with the Stain - which  
although the plaintiffs’ theory evolved over the duration of the litigation, in  
reply argument they finally characterized as “left in a pile on the drop  
sheet”; and  
c) if the Staining Materials were stored at the Back of the Lodge, in a  
negligent manner, that they were able to spontaneously combust within  
the time line established - being from the time Mr. Dornian, Mr. Friesen  
and Mr. Robinson cleaned up the worksite when work concluded at  
approximately 6:30, to the Fire being discovered at approximately 10:30,  
to the Lodge being fully engulfed in flames by 11:11 pm.  
[
24] Cases where