November 26, 2021

Lawsuit of the week: UBC sues New York-based company after its owner dies in freak guacamole machine explosion

University seeks return of deposit on food processing system

Rob Kruyt/BIV files

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is suing New York-based Elmhurst Systems LLC for the return of a deposit on a food processing system the company allegedly never delivered due to the death of the company’s owner in a freak accident involving a guacamole-making machine.

The university filed a notice of civil claim in BC Supreme Court on October 28 against the Wynantskill, New York-based limited liability company, which makes “high pressure processing systems for use in food processing.” The company’s owner was Dr. Joseph Kapp, a former mayor of Rensselaer, New York, who died on August 5, 2020, the claim states. While the lawsuit makes no mention of the cause of death,  local media reports at the time said Kapp, 67, died in an explosion while testing a high-pressure processing machine for manufacturing guacamole. The explosion also injured two others.

According to the lawsuit, UBC requested proposals in August 2019 for a processing system for its non-thermal food processing research facility “for use in researching and development state-of-the-art food processing technologies.”

Elmhurst’s proposal, the lawsuit says, put a US$222,500 price tag on installing such a system and required a 50% deposit. The university claims it issued a purchase order in November 2019 for production and delivery of the system, as well as freight charges, installation and training and a four-year warranty. UBC made the down payment in December 2019 and claims the company’s invoice “did not contain any terms or conditions that would entitle Elmhurst to keep the down payment in the event it did not deliver the processing system.”

The university claims it didn’t learn of Dr. Kapp’s death until early this year “after months of being unable to contact him regarding the processing system.”

In April 2021, UBC’s lawyers sent a letter to Kapp’s wife about the processing system, requesting “that Elmhurst confirm that it would either deliver the processing system or refund the down payment.”

But counsel for Kapp’s estate replied that the company was “not likely … in a position to fulfil any obligations it had to UBC pursuant to the purchase order.”

The university seeks judgment against Elmhurst for breach of contract, seeking the return of the US$111,250 deposit. The allegations have not been tested or proven in court, and Elmhurst Systems LLC had not filed a reply to the claim by press time.


More pandemic-era losers than winners in B.C. pro sports business

In this upside-down, off-kilter world of the pandemic, our city’s major-league sports franchises have found themselves in the polar-opposite positions of where they thought they’d now be.

Their three sudden dilemmas – two of them problems, one an opportunity – are major-league leadership challenges. The decisions about them stand to be important influences in the community. They are great case studies for any proprietor.

The Vancouver Canucks, BC Lions and Whitecaps FC franchises represent vital social and economic ingredients of our identity. When they succeed, there is an unconscious civic lift; when they founder, the result is communal dispiritedness.

The most positive of these dilemmas faces the Major League Soccer Whitecaps. They have been a low-budget team in a smaller-budget league, and since they sold marquee player Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich in 2018, they have certainly played the part. It hurt the team in the pandemic to host home games in Portland one season and Salt Lake City for much of the other.

In last place much of this season, drawing ties like a Ted Lasso-coached team, the humiliation of losing to a semi-pro Victoria squad earlier in the summer prompted the firing of coach Mark dos Santos and the promotion of their interestingly titled “director of methodology,” Vanni Sartini.

To be fair, few expected much. But Sartini’s superhuman energy and methodological direction breathed life into the team and, lo and behold, on the last game of the season the Whitecaps qualified for the playoffs. The first-round loss a week ago was still a victory in the bigger picture because there is clear evidence of potential. Sartini is the talk of the town.

But here’s the rub: the team has exceeded fan expectations yet fuelled them at the same time. A window is open to invest in the business to be more than a playoff qualifier and to elevate the Whitecaps into a larger fan draw than any other Vancouver sports team. The off-season is a crossroads for the franchise under owners Greg Kerfoot, Steve Luczo, Jeff Mallett and Steve Nash, which has the fourth-lowest payroll among 27 teams. It could just muddle through or set a quick course to be all-in.

This is a dilemma both the Canucks and Lions would love to have, but as any sports fan knows, their respective problems are layered and deep for the owners to solve.

The Lions came under new ownership early in the season. Industrialist Amar Doman is a respected, dedicated business figure, but his dream of securing the Canadian Football League (CFL) franchise has produced a recent batch of night terrors.

Worse than the Whitecaps’ pandemic exile in America, the CFL didn’t even play in 2020 and could only convene a shortened 2021 season. But most everyone expected that new coach Rick Campbell and the league’s best quarterback in Michael Reilly would reverse the fortunes of a desultory 2019, its worst season in more than a decade.

In the CFL it takes a lot to miss the playoffs – only three of nine teams do. Under its idiosyncratic playoff format, the Lions could actually represent the East in any Grey Cup game.

But any on-paper evaluation of a business strategy is only as good as its in-person execution of the plan. Reilly had clearly been nursing an injury much of the year, and the team appeared to be drawing a hapless place-kicker from ticket holders or a random draw in the Lower Mainland. An eight-game losing streak in a 14-game season, even in the CFL, is fatal to fortunes.

Now Doman has to implement more of a turnaround than even he banked on. His core problem is one that neither the Whitecaps nor (for the time being at least) the Canucks have: drawing fans to the stadium. The CFL is itself in distress in Toronto and here. BC Place is cavernous without large crowds, the concession contract with the team is lopsided, and the real estate-savvy Doman knows he has to take the team nearly down to the studs. Reilly may not return, even if at about $575,000 he is well-paid by league standards. (No CFL player makes even the National Football League minimum salary of US$660,000.) Doman has a mittful.

Of course, there is a Millionaire’s Club over at Rogers Arena, where it is possible that the team will set a new record for the earliest date its playoff aspirations are thwarted. Theirs is, like the Lions’ and Whitecaps’, not at all the anticipated outcome.

While the Canucks surprised the fan base in the pandemic bubble in the playoffs to end the 2019-20 season, it lost the plot in 2020-21 in empty arenas playing only other Canadian teams, all but one of them superior. Many thought that Canadian-only competition was a mere bump on the road on the weaving highway to Stanley Cup contention. Instead, it seems a cliff and the team lacks headlights to avoid sailing off it.

Some of this mess falls to the management (who will likely take the fall), quite a bit of it to the players (star Elias Pettersson looks as if an academically inclined identical twin suddenly donned his uniform), but a helping of the goo belongs to owner Francesco Aquilini.

When the team’s business model broke in the spring of 2020, ownership opted not to buy out some contracts of players before the next season who were past their best-before date. The sudden frugality after seasons of spending prevented wise retention or investment in key pieces within a salary cap to advance on the bubble opportunity. Instead the team delayed a reset to this off-season and found that others had used that Canucks hesitation to move into the passing lane. There is scant chemistry to the new assemblage so far. They will need a Sartini-like resurgence.

The plan until this season was to contend for the Cup by next season. The reality is yet another rebuild and, like many realities, awfully removed from expectation and epitome. Groan, sigh. •

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of BIV and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.


New immersive family-friendly holiday event takes you on a 3D train to the North Pole

All aboard for a virtual trip past the Northern Lights with all the sights and sounds of the merriest season

The North Star Experience Train is an immersive 3D holiday event taking place at three popular Metro Vancouver shopping malls | Tsawwassen Mills

There's a festive new family-friendly holiday event taking place at three Metro Vancouver locations that takes you on a journey to the North Pole.

The North Star Experience Train is an "immersive sound and light show" that beckons the young and young at heart to go on a holiday adventure that will transport you to "a whole new world full of magnificent scenery."

The new seasonal event is taking place November 24 through December 23, 2021 at three Metro Vancouver shopping malls: Guildford Town Centre (Surrey), Metropolis at Metrotown (Burnaby), and Tsawwassen Mills (Tsawwassen First Nation). 

Here's what to expect on this magical virtual trip: "As the sun sets and the moon rises, the spirit of the season comes out to play while the train journeys through a winter wonderland. Mountains, valleys, villages and oceans flash by as you approach the North Pole, all against a stunning backdrop of the Northern Lights."

Of course, the jolly man with the beard in the red suit will be there to greet you. When you get off the train, your adventure wraps up with you getting to take your picture with the virtual Santa Claus. (But take note: this is not an in-person Santa experience.)

Seating is limited, so each participant must purchase tickets in advance. A reservation charge applied to each ticket will help to support the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre, which strives to strengthen health, belonging and food sovereignty in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

North Star Experience Train

When: November 24-December 23, 2021

Where: Guildford Town Centre (Surrey); Metropolis at Metrotown (Burnaby); Tsawwassen Mills (TFN) 

Tickets: Reserve online (Guildford; Metrotown; Tsawwassen Mills)



One of Metro Vancouver's most awe-inspiring holiday lights events returns for 2021

Attraction features thousands of twinkling lights, a dazzling light tunnel and the eight tallest Christmas trees in the world

Canyon Lights is back from November 20, 2021, through January 23, 2022, at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in North Vancouver | Photo courtesy Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

North Vancouver's iconic Capilano Suspension Bridge Park will shine brightly once again this holiday season as the dazzling Canyon Lights event returns after skipping 2020 due to the pandemic.

Considered one of the world's most spectacular holiday light displays, Canyon Lights features thousands of twinkling lights adorning the iconic Capilano Suspension Bridge, as well as the exciting Treetops Adventure walk and its 250-year-old Douglas firs.

The park is home to the eight tallest Christmas trees in the world, which will also be sparkling brightly to celebrate the season. 

Guests can also take a stroll through the "Arc de Lumina" light tunnel on the park's thrilling Cliffwalk.

For something new this season, the world-famous suspension bridge will be lit, end to end, with a multi-colour changing display.

Needless to say, the dazzling seasonal event is a perfect family outing or date and offers endless photo opportunities to feed your social media feed.

Tickets to Canyon Lights 2021 are only available by advance purchase online, and visits are booked in arrival time slots at 30-minute intervals. B.C. Annual Pass holders will also be required to reserve their time online prior to their visit.

Proof of vaccination is not required to enter the Park, however, it is required to dine in at The Cliff House Restaurant. Face masks are appreciated within the Park, and are mandatory to ride the free shuttle, to cross all three main attractions and to enter all indoor spaces.

Partial proceeds from admissions will be donated to the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund for fire and burn education in schools throughout British Columbia. To date, Canyon Lights has donated over $381,000 to this worthy program. Admissions also help Capilano continue to host the Twelve Nights of Christmas, offering passes to local charities.

The event begins Saturday, November 20, 2021 and runs through Sunday, January 23, 2022, stretching the magic and wonder of the season well into the new yer - though take note, Canyon Lights is closed on Christmas Day. 

Canyon Lights 

When: To January 23, 2022 (closed December 25)

Where: Capilano Suspension Bridge Park - 3735 Capilano Rd, North Vancouver

Tickets: Purchase in advance online



What are we reading? November 25, 2021

Photo: Justin Paget/Getty Images

Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.


Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

From the file of environmental good news, which finds little favour in the 21st century era of end-times and hopelessness, sightings of new life in the Great Barrier Reef. – The Washington Post


Increasing energy efficiency is one of the keys to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and putting more power in the hands of more people, which in turn will raise living standards and improve economic and environmental outcomes for more countries. So here is a simple way to bolster the renewable power grid without having to build more expensive and destructive hydro-electric dams. – Wired


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor:

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt lays out the evidence that social media is causing serious harm to teenagers, particularly girls, by amplifying anxieties and giving free rein to bullies. – The Atlantic


University of Regina assistant professor of economics Noha Razek makes the case for a cautious transition away from fossil fuels in Canada, with natural gas as a bridge to long-term energy security – MSN