St. Lawrence Cement is liable to pay $15m in damages to a Quebec City neighbourhood, even though it followed environmental regulations, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.
In a unanimous decision, the country’s top court said corporate polluters can be on the hook for damages even if they took steps to control discharge that complied with regulations.
The ruling was a victory for residents of Beauport who launched a class action lawsuit in 1994 over residue left on their properties that caused their property values to decrease.
“Even though it appears to be absolute, the right of ownership has limits,” the court said.
Justices Marie Deschamps and Louis LeBel said it was necessary to recognize a scheme of no-fault civil liability in respect of neighbourhood disturbances “that is based on the annoyances suffered by the victim being excessive rather than on the conduct of the person who allegedly caused them.”
About 2,000 residents who lived near the plant argued they suffered undue conveniences and financial hardship from the operations of the company’s plant until it closed in 1997.
St. Lawrence Cement said that Canadian companies need to review the ruling to better understand their obligations.
“The implications of today’s confirmation by the Supreme Court of Canada that a no-fault liability regime does exist in the province of Quebec may have far-reaching implications for Canadian industry,” St. Lawrence Cenment stated in a news release.