Residents of a small town in Northern Ontario launched a class action in 2001, seeking damages for diminished residential property value due to the stigma of nickel contaminants found in soil. The case evolved over 10 years, and the Ontario Court of Appeal ultimately set aside a $36 million award to the claimants.
The reasons? Environmental damages need to be proven with concrete evidence – the inability to produce hard, scientific evidence of harmful effects, to prove that land was not used in an exceptionally dangerous manner while the refinery was in operation and to gauge public perception based on facts, not hearsay, all worked against the claimants in the end.
Lindsay Johnston’s paper on “Class Actions and Contaminated Land: Smith v. Inco Limited, ONCA 628” provides a case review and can be read here.