Woman's civil suit against steel plant stands alone - for now
By Steve MacInnis
Sydney - A Sydney woman's civil suit against the various owners and operators
of a former steel plant will, for now, proceed on it's own without being
joined to a proposed class-action suit.
Justice David MacAdam of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, rejected an
application by the province, one of the former Sydney plant's owners to have
Debbie Ouellette's civil action joined with a larger class-action suit.
MacAdam ruled it was far too early to review such possibilities since the
class action suit has not been certified. A certification hearing isn't
scheduled until January 2009.
Presently, class- action suits first need court approval before they can
proceed, However, the laws governing such suits in Nova Scotia are about
to change, dropping the requirement for the court approval. The new law has
yet been proclaimed.
But MacAdam did recommend that Ouellette's suit be managed by the judge,
himself, who is managing the larger suit. Case management simply follows a
case through the judicial system to ensure everything is before the court
that should be and issues of contention are clearly identified.
Ouellette's objected to having her case joined with the class-action suit
but had no problems with having her case managed by MacAdam.
"I will continue to fight for separation. Why should I have to go to Halifax
when the problems and the evidence are all located here in Sydney," said
Ouellette, after Monday's hearing.
The class-action suit represents 400 local residents seeking compensation
for property and personal contamination flowing from the steel mil's
operation. The mill closed in 2000. Since the group action was filed, the
case was moved to Halifax since that is where the majority of the lawyers
defending the suit work. As of yet, there has been no formal motion
regarding where the trail will take place.
Halifax Lawyer Ray Wagner is representing those with the class-action suit.
He and his clients were against the motion to have Ouellette's suit joined
explaining their actions are targeting different defendants and his suit has
been in the works for nearly four years while Ouellette just filed.
Ouellette's said she been working toward her suit for the past 10 years
which included having her family moved from their home on Frederick Street
because high levels of arsenic seeping into her basement from the tarponds
and steel plant property.
"It's not in Halifax that has the damage, it's here," said Ouellette
"Ouellette's suit names the Sydney Tarponds Agency along with provincial
departments of Health, Environment and Transportation as well as other named
In the Wagner suit, the federal and provincial governments along with other
former operators are named.