Company didn't have to warn residents: Appeal Court
By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Wed., Mar. 28, 2007
SYDNEY - The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal agrees governments may still be
not warning residents about the dangers of living near a toxic waste site.
However, it disagrees a private company, Ispat Sidbec Inc., shares the
The appeal court stated in a decision released Tuesday that Justice
David MacAdam erred
in his July decision when he didn't strike the resident's claim that Ispat
Sidbec Inc. should have acted in the best interest of surrounding
communities. The company successfully argued the law does not require it,
as a private corporation, to publicly disclose information about its
"It is true that the (residents) were vulnerable to the decisions Ispat
made as to how it
operated the plant and ovens and what it did with information it had
relating to that operation," the judges wrote. "While this characteristic
is often found in fiduciary relationships, vulnerability is not a defining
aspect of a fiduciary relationship."
The judge stated there is no suggestion that Ispat and the (residents)
were anything but
"strangers. Not only were they strangers, Ispat was obliged to act in the
best interests of others, its shareholders."
The judge did allow Canada and Nova Scotia's level of responsibility to
be argued at trial
stating governments may have held a relationship with the community that
amounts to a fiduciary duty.
"It may also be arguable that when Canada and Nova Scotia provided
information to the
(residents) concerning their health in particular, and that it was safe to
live on their land, a duty of loyalty was engaged."
The appeal judges'decision supports one of the first major steps for a
class-action lawsuit for residents living or have lived next to the Sydney
tar ponds and coke oven sites."
Listed as plaintiffs in the case are residents Neila MacQueen, Joe
Pettipas, Ann Marie
Ross and Iris and the late Carl Crawford.
Defendants are Hawker Siddeley Canada Inc., Sydney Steel Corp., Nova
government, Canadian National Railway Company, the Canadian government and
The residents are holding government and the steel companies liable for
trespassing, negligence, harm and injuries, family losses, as well as
aggravated, punitive and additional damages.
The allegations haven't been proven in court.
It's expected the civil case could take between two and six years to
conclude and millions
of dollars will likely be sought as compensation for the claimants.
Ray Wagner, who represents the defendants, said he will be before
Friday to ask for a new court date to have the lawsuit certified as a