St-Lawrence Cement Inc. v. Huguette Barrette, et al.

(Quebec) (Civil) (By Leave)




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Damages - Civil liability - Environmental law - Air pollution - Class action - Neighbourhood disturbances - Dust - Noise - Odours - Abnormal annoyances - Compensation of people living near cement plant for disturbances resulting from operation of plant -Whether Court of Appeal erred in interpreting s. 12 of Regulation respecting the application of the Environment Quality Act and in making finding of civil fault against Appellant - Whether Court of Appeal erred in concluding that evidence established causal connection between fault and damages claimed by Respondents - Whether courts below erred in using averaging method to establish quantum of damages - Whether courts below erred in holding that action had interrupted prescription for future fault and rights not yet in existence - Whether art. 976 C.C.Q. establishes scheme for compensation for annoyances caused by neighbourhood disturbances based on excessiveness, having regard to circumstances and type of annoyances - Whether Court of Appeal erred in holding that, even if this theory did apply, it could not be implemented through class action.

Some citizens of Beauport instituted a class action against St. Lawrence Cement for neighbourhood disturbances resulting from the operation of a cement plant. The evidence showed that the residents had suffered considerable annoyances, such as the deposit of cement residues on houses, land and cars as well as many problems involving dust, odours and noise.

The Superior Court allowed the class action under art. 976 C.C.Q. Although it absolved St. Lawrence Cement of any wrongdoing, it ordered the company to compensate the people living near the plant. According to the Court of Appeal, the trial judge had erred in finding the Appellant personally liable without fault. The Court of Appeal was of the opinion that St. Lawrence Cement was at fault within the meaning of art. 1457 C.C.Q., since it had an obligation to maintain its pollution control equipment in optimal working order at all times during production hours.

Lower Court Rulings

May 9, 2003
Superior Court of Quebec

Recours collectif accueilli; Ciment Saint-Laurent condamnée à indemniser les personnes vivant dans le voisinage de l'usine
October 31, 2006
Court of Appeal of Quebec (Québec)

Appel accueilli en partie