Class Action Against Noise Pollution

It is being reported in the news that yesterday, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a decision rendered by the Superior Court of Quebec refusing to authorize a class action filed by three residents of a suburb of Quebec City against the Quebec Minister of Transport due to the alleged noise pollution caused by the nearby A-73 highway (see a French article in La Presse).

In 2009, three residents filed a motion requesting authorization to institute a class action in the name of approximately 1000 residents living in proximity to the highway. According to studies, the noise level caused by the highway reached above a certain acceptable decibel. As such, the residents asked that the Minister be found liable, even without having committed any fault. We will recall that the Supreme Court of Canada in St-Lawrence Cement v. Barrette, 2008 SCC 64 analyzed and in some ways further developed this scheme of no-fault civil liability in respect of neighbourhood disturbances under Quebec civil law. As an alternative argument, the residents raised the fact that the Minister had omitted to correct a situation that was clearly causing them an injury. The residents were looking to have the Minister ordered to take the appropriate measures to lessen the noise, as well as pay damages reaching into the millions of dollars. 

The Superior Court of Quebec found, among other reasons, that the class action was not based on any fault or abuse by the government, but rather the government’s decision not to provide the necessary budget to put into place measures to reduce the noise level. According to the Court, this was a political decision and it was not up to the courts to intervene. Indeed, the Court found that the immunity of the State, when acting within its political sphere, prevented the residents from successfully instituting this class action (you can read the decision of the Superior Court of Quebec in French on CanLII).

The Quebec Court of Appeal disagreed yesterday with this position and allowed the class action to go forward, citing the vital importance of environmental protection. As with all class actions, this will no doubt be a costly debate, with a slew of expert witnesses to be heard. Will this class action open the door to suits by other groups living near highways or other noisy areas?

Comments

  1. We are also looking to pursue a Class Action Suit against the MTQ like Quebec city and 3 Rivers. We are a group of residents known as Citizens for a Sound Wall Beaconsfield South. The MTQ had finally submitted a Sound Wall Report and states that a Wall needs to be put in place as the decibal levels are well above their permissable standards of 65 DBA. We had our Council pass resoultion last Nov to have a wall built and it was submitted to the MTQ to pay for the complete project of 22+ million. We have yet to see any progress on this from the MTQ and the City of Beaconsfield is not putting any pressure on the MTQ to pursue this interest it seems.

    On behalf of the Citizens for a Sound Wall Beaconsfield South
    Tony Cioccio