Biker wins appeal against towing company

A biker who lost his motorcycle at the hands of a Watson Lake towing company won an appeal in the Yukon Supreme Court earlier this week.

A biker who lost his motorcycle at the hands of a Watson Lake towing company won an appeal in the Yukon Supreme Court earlier this week.

Jim Wilkinson was driving a pickup with a U-Haul trailer from Whitehorse to Vernon, British Columbia, on December 23, 2008 when the engine caught fire a few kilometres outside Watson Lake.

RCMP and firefighters attended the scene, but the town’s main towing company, Capital Towing, was not available to transport Wilkinson’s damaged truck.

Instead, Watson Lake Motors was called in and its owner, a man referred to in court documents only as Mr. Stevenson, attended the scene.

Stevenson agreed to tow the truck but only as soon as his flatbed tow truck arrived from Fort Nelson. Wilkinson agreed to the terms and bought a bus ticket back to Whitehorse, where he would rent a new vehicle for his trip.

In the original trial, both men disagreed about the agreement’s terms. Stevenson denied he assured the trailer – which contained a motorcycle and other belongings – was explicitly in the deal. Wilkinson argued they talked extensively about the bike and how important it was to him.

While Wilkinson was on his way to Whitehorse, Stevenson’s flatbed broke down on the Alaska Highway near Toad River. When Wilkinson returned to Watson Lake on Christmas Eve, he found out his stuff had been left by the highway overnight and the bike and belongings were gone.

Stevenson argued in the original trial that he tried to get Capitol Towing to do the job on the day of the accident, after he found out his own truck was busted. But Capital Towing was not available.

The 800-pound bike was later found broken and abandoned. In total, repairs cost $11,175. Wilkinson sued Stevenson for leaving his stuff on the side of the highway, but the Yukon court found Stevenson had done everything he could to ensure protection.

However, Wilkinson managed to get a new trial over a technicality. During the original trial, the self-represented plaintiff tried to get the owner of Capital Towing, Larry Hale, to testify. But Hale had moved out of the Yukon by then, and the attempt was rebuffed.

Justice Ron Veale allowed an appeal because Wilkinson, unfamiliar with court procedure, bungled his attempt to have Hale testify.

In the appeal, Hale testified that Stevenson never contacted him on December 23. It was only on Christmas Eve that he found out he was needed.

So, Stevenson didn’t do everything he could to protect Wilkinson’s stuff, ruled Veale. Stevenson could have also tried to contact Wilkinson in Whitehorse, called the RCMP or used other equipment to tow the bike.

Stevenson must now pay Wilkinson $13,000, the fair market price of the motorcycle at the time of the theft, wrote Veale in his decision on September 3. (James Munson)

Log cabin skyscraper may get a facelift

The charred remains of an iconic log cabin skyscraper on Lambert Street may be renovated with help from the city.

Last February, the two-storey apartment building caught fire days before an antique store on the ground level was set to open.

The roof completely burned and the interior of both cabins were extensively damaged.

However, insurance will cover little more than half of the $90,000 in renovations that need to be done.

Apartment owner Terry Atkins is looking for a $40,000 donation from the city to restore the heritage buildings.

He’s hoping to tap the city’s Heritage Fund.

But council may only belly up half the money.

They vote Monday night whether to give $20,000 to Atkins.

The double-decker and three-storey cabin skyscrapers were built in 1949 by prospector Martin Berrigan.

The three-storey log skyscraper wasn’t affected by the fire last winter. (Vivian Belik)