Friday, February 06, 2009

Massive lawsuit over for company's operations which created foul odours that were an ongoing nuisance

Massive lawsuit over for CVRD



A Supreme Court judge has dismissed a $100 million lawsuit against the Cowichan Valley Regional District.

In 2002, Westcoast Landfill Diversion Corporation had filed suit against the District alleging it and a trio of its directors illegally interfered with business at their Herhof in-vessel composting facility in the region's South End.

It was clear to neighbours that the company's operations created foul odours that were an ongoing nuisance and that Westcoast's actions interfered with neighbours' ability to enjoy their own properties.

More than 194 complaints from residents and tourists were received by the CVRD and by the Ministry of Environment, where they were met with an open ear and a shared concern.

For years the CVRD has maintained that neighbours had every right to be concerned about the safety of their water supply and about environmental contamination -- something which the CVRD's staff took steps to rectify.

But Westcoast's statement of claim alleged the CVRD tried to destroy their business through media attacks, abuse of public office as well as the failure to negotiate an appropriate waste supply contract.

Westcoast cited negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, unlawful interference with economic relations, and general negligence. The company wanted punitive damages because it alleges that the CVRD acted in bad faith.

The company was after a return of its $5 million initial investment, the additional $1.5 million estimated to dismantle the Fisher Road plant, and $10,870,000 for the loss of future revenue.

They won't be seeing any of that money.

On Jan. 30, after nearly six years in court, the Honourable Mr. Justice Shabbits of the Supreme Court of British Columbia dismissed the case, clearing the CVRD of any wrong doing, saying in his written judgment that the company's claims of negligence were without merit.

In his judgment Justice Shabbits said that the "CVRD had legitimate community and environmental concerns that were the result of Westcoast's actions," and "CVRD's actions were not high-handed nor vindictive nor oppressive," as claimed by Westcoast.

Justice Shabbits concluded the actions of the CVRD were appropriate and that although it had welcomed Westcoast to its area, it did so thinking the facility would be of benefit to its residents. He went on to write that the steps the CVRD and its staff took to deal with pollution and odour concerns were measured and appropriate.

The final decision has been a long time coming for the CVRD.

"The CVRD is exceptionally pleased with the decision," said CVRD Chair Gerry Giles in a release. "This is a significant decision in favour of the CVRD and all of the residents who live within our community... This is a monumental day for the region, its staff and the directors involved in the matter."

Giles said she was pleased with Shabbits's mention of the hard work CVRD staff had undertaken in their attempts to serve their community.

"In his judgment, Justice Shabbits is highly complementary of the measured steps taken by the staff of the CVRD to represent the interests of the community and I would like to extend my appreciation to them," she said.

The entire text of Justice Shabbits's decision can be found online at:

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