Bulletin from NIMONIK: Landmark Decision On Environmental Nuisance

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In St. Lawrence Cement Inc. v. Barrette, neighbours of a cement factory filed a class-action lawsuit against the company alleging that the factory’s activities caused neighbourhood disturbances that were excessive.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Québec has two regimes of civil liability under s.976 of the Québec Civil Code:

  1. The ordinary rules of civil liability, which are based on the wrongful conduct of the person who allegedly caused the disturbances, and
  2. A regime of no-fault liability based on the extent of the annoyances suffered by the victim for the purposes of s.976.

The fact that the company’s conduct was proper, and that it complied with all applicable standards were not valid defences. Under s. 976, the company is liable once there is proof that it has caused excessive neighbourhood annoyances.

In Québec, it is now important to conform to all applicable standards, but that in itself will not protect a company from civil liability. The effect of this ruling in other Canadian provinces and territories is unclear. Whether in Québec or not, consult a legal professional for more information.