Doucette v City of Charlottetown, 2022 PESC 11
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By: Chloe Jardine (Articled Clerk)
Gail Doucette (“Plaintiff”) filed an action against the City of Charlottetown (“the City”) following an oil leak at the Sherwood Recreation Hall in 2013. The Plaintiff, who had been residing in her home since 1982, was informed of the oil leak at the neighbouring property when City staff visited her home on the day the oil leak was discovered. The City was alerted to the oil leak when a petroleum company visited the property to conduct a pressure test on the underground oil tank and reported that the tank was not airtight and at risk of leaking. The Plaintiff granted permission for City staff to enter her property and investigate any potential impacts.
Testing indicated that an unknown amount of oil had reached the soil of the Plaintiff’s property, requiring remediation efforts. A monitoring hole was drilled into the property’s basement floor and large portions of the property’s yard were excavated.
Seven years after the oil leak, the Plaintiff’s property remains impacted. Remediation workers required access to her home on multiple occasion for nearly a decade; further, the Plaintiff remained unable to use portions of her home because of remediation efforts and the odour caused by the oil leak. Due to soil contamination, the Plaintiff was unable to maintain any greenery on her property (i.e. grass, trees, flowerbeds, vegetable garden). In essence, the Plaintiff’s property became uninhabitable as a result of the oil leak at the City’s neighbouring property.
The Plaintiff brought an action against the City on the basis that her property was essentially uninhabitable as a result of the oil leak and she was unable to relocate because she could not sell the property as a result of the damage. The Plaintiff was granted a sizeable award: $150,000 in general damages ($20,000 over 7.5 years); $8,000 in moving expenses; and $375,000 in special damages in exchange for the Plaintiff conveying her property to the City.
The City has been granted a stay in proceedings pending the outcome of an appeal to the Prince Edward Island Court of Appeal. Regardless of the outcome, this decision will likely be cited in favour of larger damage awards for property damage in the future. We will provide an update to our readers on the results of this appeal when the decision is published.