B.C. Supreme Court rules Hankar Singh’s Mercedes that was set on fire was not stolen

Burning CarBurning CarA B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled that a 2007 E-350 Mercedes belonging to Hankar Singh of Surrey that was set on fire on October 24, 2009, not far from his house was not stolen and dismissed his ICBC claim.

The ruling noted: “This case involves events which caused damage to a luxury vehicle. The luxury vehicle was found burned, in a location not far from the owner’s house, only 40 minutes after the owner claims he last parked it in front of his residence. There are somewhat confusing and contradictory assertions concerning whether the vehicle was stolen at the time of the incidents. The owner brings this action against the insurance company following the denial of his insurance claim.”

Justice Hope Hyslop noted that the police and Singh had different explanations for what occurred that evening and added: “I accept the police version.”

In the judge’s analysis under the heading “Was Mr. Singh’s 2007 Mercedes Stolen?” it states:

“In his evidence, Mr. Singh repeatedly stated that the Mercedes was burned, denying its theft, where in his notice of civil claim did he state that someone set fire to the Mercedes. However, it is not the theft that caused the damage, rather it is the fire. The pleadings allege a theft only.

“Mr. Singh bears the burden of proving that the Mercedes was stolen on a balance of probabilities.

“Mr. Singh testified that he last saw the Mercedes at 9:30 p.m. on October 24, 2009 and at 10:10 p.m. the police observed the Mercedes in flames. I have already stated that I prefer the police’s version of the facts when they arrived at the scene of the fire and their communications with Mr. Singh. I reject Mr. Singh’s version of events. Mr. Singh referred to other persons in his home on the evening of the fire who did not give evidence. No explanation was given as to why they did not give evidence. There were family members with whom he had telephone conversations who did not give evidence. The only family member who gave evidence was Daryl Prasad. Daryl Prasad testified that at the time of the trial his mother was in town. She could have given evidence about the telephone calls, as could have Mr. Prasad’s wife.

“Mr. Singh stated that they did not hear anybody outside on the street or hear a tow truck. I do not accept that Mr. Singh went to bed at 9:30 p.m. I have already found that the police spoke directly to him that evening. Mr. Singh also participated in a number of telephone calls with family members both before and after the fire. I do not accept that the fire was not discussed during the evening of October 24 and the early morning hours of October 25, 2009 between Mr. Singh and his family members. ”Mr. Singh’s evidence was untruthful. His feigned lack of memory was used as an excuse not to answer questions posed to him. As I stated earlier, Mr. Singh repeatedly said that he did not know answers to the questions. He was belligerent throughout his testimony. His behaviour was similar at his examination under oath and towards ICBC’s employees when they attempted to investigate his claim.

“Constable Gibo stated that Mr. Singh was not surprised or did not express shock that the Mercedes was on fire, nor did he ask for any details as to the event. He did not care. I find that is because he knew in advance what would happen to the Mercedes.

“I do not accept that the Mercedes was stolen. Mr. Singh’s evidence was that when he purchased the Mercedes he received two sets of keys to operate it. He claims that he mislaid one set of keys, but was very clear that the keys were not lost or stolen. He refused to say when one set of keys was mislaid.

“Expert evidence is before the court that categorically states that Mr. Singh’s Mercedes could not be driven without the keys. The opinion of Mr. Seroogy is that in order to produce a new key, it requires the proper equipment and people with extensive training and experience “in multiple electronic disciplines”. Mr. Seroogy said that the process is delicate and time consuming and could not have been performed within the timeframe between when the Mercedes was last seen and the time when it was found burning. I accept this evidence.

“Mr. Crowe found that there was damage to the right side of the Mercedes. I find that this was intended to cover up the fact that the Mercedes was driven to the site of the fire with a key.

“I find that the Mercedes was driven to the scene of the fire using the keys. The Mercedes was then set on fire.

“The fact that it is unknown who participated in the theft and the destruction of the Mercedes by fire, is of no consequence.

“In his testimony, Mr. Singh completely resiles from his pleadings in which he alleges theft. Mr. Singh repeatedly testified that he was not claiming the Mercedes was stolen, but rather that it was burned. Nothing in his pleadings mentions that the Mercedes was burned.

“In his Claim File Report (by telephone), Mr. Singh claimed that the Mercedes was stolen. No mention was made of it being burned. In his statement of November 4, 2009, he refers to the fire. In his Proof of Loss, he swears that the cause of his loss was by “burned”. However, whether it was stolen or not, it could not be at the location of the fire without being driven there with the use of one of the sets of keys issued to Mr. Singh when he purchased the Mercedes.”