Court award could spark more Canada Line suits
A B.C. Supreme Court decision to award $600,000 in damages plus costs to a Vancouver merchant who lost thousands of dollars as a result of Canada Line rapid transit project construction, is expected to set the stage for more lawsuits.
Lawyers acting for 150 merchants who have also been impacted by the Canada Line construction are in the process of launching a class action suit, seeking compensation for financial losses.
The warning comes after a judge awarded small business owner Susan Heyes $600,000 in damages for losses her maternity clothing store Hazel & Co. suffered during Canada Line construction along Vancouver's Cambie Street. She moved to a new location earlier this year.
"The financial award is going to ensure my business can stay operating and that I don't have to sell my house,'' Heyes said.
The original proposal for the line was to bore a tunnel under Cambie Street, which would have had minimal impact on merchants. However, the plan was dropped in favour of cut-and-cover construction, a method that delivered cost savings of $400 million.
According to Wednesday's court judgement, a loss of more than $500,000 over four years, resulting from the decline in sales, and the reduction of approximately 50 per cent in gross profit caused solely by cut and cover construction cannot be regarded as a tolerable or acceptable burden which should be absorbed by Hazel & Co.
Observers say the ramifications of the court ruling are likely to be felt elsewhere.
"It has tremendous consequences for governments generally who are doing public works,'' said Jonathan Baker, a lawyer and former city councilor, who points to the consequences for businesses on Granville Street, which is also a venue for Canada Line construction.
"They could have I guess left it partly open for traffic so business, could be kept alive and they haven't done that. So potentially they could be sued for using a method that saves them money but transfers the burden to the property owners," Baker said.
That's what other former Cambie merchants are alleging in a class-action lawsuit.
"It killed us on the street, cost us easily $500,000,'' said Barbara Rasmussen, of sofa bed retailer |Sofa So Good.
Meanwhile, Canada Line officials are monitoring the situation.
"Well we know that there are other folks that are certainly looking at this case,'' said Canada Line spokesman Alan Dever. "We're going to be looking at this case and as I said, we'll probably have more to say in the next couple of days."
For her part, Susan Heyes is just relieved that the fight is over.
"It went on for so long, people got into different habits and stayed away and I really hope they come back and support the businesses that are still there because they have been through hell."
With a report by CTV British Columbia's Mike Killeen