Environmental damage as a result of pollution, spills or contaminated water issues may have a large impact on a great number of individuals or their properties. Toxic emissions from plants, foundries, or steel or coal production can cause widespread damage which affects many communities in Canada. At Wagners, we represent those who have been harmed because of negligent environmental activities in the context of individual or class action lawsuits, representing many plaintiffs.
These types of class actions may be massive and affect tens of thousands of people. While class proceedings involving environmental damages are sometimes difficult to certify, there have been successful suits that have passed the certification test, including our Sydney Tar Ponds class action. If the case is manageable and refined appropriately, certification can be obtained and an appropriate resolution may be reached.
Environmental Class Actions In Canada
The Courts have had experience with environmental class actions, and property owners do have recourse when faced with damages to their homes and lands. Claims seeking compensation for environmental disasters and pollution caused by defendants are not cost-effective when pursued on an individual basis. When the same source of contamination adversely affects many, but the damages to each individual are low, class actions are a perfect vehicle for them to obtain justice and compensation. Train derailments, fires, the release of chemicals into waterways, poor water quality and other instances of environmental damage have been the subject of class actions throughout the years.
One difficulty with these types of class actions is the pursuit of damages by plaintiffs for health effects related to the contamination. The Courts take a hard line on the personal injuries that may be attributed to contaminants, and due to the individual nature of the health effects and damages, the Courts tend to shy away from certifying an environmental class proceeding. Medical monitoring is one aspect of environmental class actions that has been employed in an effort to assist individuals who suffer from ill-health as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals. However, property damage, diminution of value and loss of enjoyment of one’s surroundings are much more likely to obtain certification.
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In addition to corporate defendants, class proceedings have also been filed against provincial and federal governments in their roles as regulators and owners of various manufacturing facilities. The Sydney Tar Ponds class action is one such class action that names both the Government of Canada as well as Nova Scotia as defendants. Steel making in Sydney, Nova Scotia, has led to widespread contamination of that community.