Canadian Consulting Engineer

Supreme Court of Canada allows class action lawsuits for environmental nuisance

Industries must now be wary of environmental class action lawsuits following a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canad...

December 4, 2008   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Industries must now be wary of environmental class action lawsuits following a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada on November 2.

The decision, known as St. Lawrence Cement Inc. v. Barrette, affirms that citizens have the right to launch class action suits if they face abnormal inconvenience as a result of industrial operations. It is being hailed as “precedent-setting” by environmental advocates such as EcoJustice and Friends of the Earth Canada.

The Supreme Court decision overturns an earlier ruling by the Quebec Court of Appeal. The case revolves around a St. Lawrence Cement plant in Quebec City where neighbours complained about noise, dust and odour from the factory.

The new ruling settles a longstanding debate under Quebec’s civil law by determining that “nuisance” claims can be based on “abnormal inconvenience.” They do not require proof of “fault” or wrongdoing.

Will Amos, a lawyer from the uOttawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic who co-argued the case, said they were pleased because the decision enforces the principle of “the polluter pays.”

 


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