Case management judge to be selected
to deal with tar ponds lawsuit

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Tues., Nov. 9, 2004

A judge is being sought to help organize and manage armies of lawyers preparing to battle in the courtroom over a pending class action lawsuit involving more than 350 plaintiffs.

It's expected a case management judge will be selected in the coming weeks, a move that should add pressure and hasten the pace of the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites lawsuit, said Ray Wagner of the Halifax law firm Wagner and Associates.

Cited as defendants are Hawker Siddeley Canada Inc., Sydney Steel Corp., Nova Scotia government, Canadian National Railway Company, the Canadian government and Domtar Inc. The plaintiffs are holding the defendants liable for battery, nuisance, trespassing, negligence, harm and injuries, family losses, as well as aggravated, punitive and additional damages.

None of the allegations contained in the claim, filed in March, have been proven in court.

Among the host of plaintiffs are Sydney residents Neila Mac Queen, Joe Petitpas, Ann Marie Ross and Iris Crawford.

Mac Queen, a non-smoker diagnosed with lung cancer in 1999, has suffered from asthma, chronic bronchitis, ear and throat infections all of which she believes result from living near contaminants released by the defendants.

Petitpas, a lifelong resident of Whitney Pier, suffers from unexplained and distressing health conditions that include seizures and headaches. He believes his condition is the result of living in a contaminated environment.

Government relocated Ross from her home, which is near the coke ovens site, after she detected an orange goo seeping into her basement in 1999. After living in a nearby hotel with her daughter for more than a month, Ross was told it was safe to return home.

The mother suffers from illnesses that include nosebleeds, headaches, burning eyes, water blisters, runny nose, frequent sore throat, psoriasis, skin rashes and neurological disorders. She also suffers from anxiety. Ross states that her failing health is the result of living in a contaminated environment.

Iris Crawford is suing the defendants over the death of her husband Carl. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June 2003 and died five months later. Iris is claiming damages on behalf of her family under the Fatal Injuries Act.

If the case moves forward as a class action lawsuit, Wagner said the number of plaintiffs could reach the thousands with each having varying degrees of claims.

It's expected that the civil case could take between two to six years to resolve and millions of dollars will likely be sought as compensation for the claimants.