Walkerton Class Action Settled

On March 19, 2001, Patrick LeSage, Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Ontario, approved the settlement of the class action commenced on behalf of the people of Walkerton arising out of the E. coli contamination of the Walkerton water supply in May 2000. The class action included compensation for death, illness, property damage, economic loss, diminution in property values and the inconvenience of being without potable water for several months.

Prior to the commencement of litigation, the Province of Ontario established the Walkerton Compensation Plan, under which all those affected by the contamination of the municipal water supply were entitled, on a no-fault basis, to receive full compensation for any claim for which they could be granted recovery in law, via an impartial, independently administered out-of-court process.

Mr. Justice Warren Winkler was appointed as the case management judge and on February 1, 2001, he granted an order, on consent, whereby the action was certified as a class proceeding against all defendants except the province and directed that a hearing be held to consider approval of the proposed settlement.

Under the settlement approved by Chief Justice LeSage, the no-fault compensation plan established by the government of Ontario was continued, with some amendments, including provision for court supervision of the plan and including an entitlement for each affected resident of Walkerton to receive a minimum payment of $2,000 on account of compensable damages.

The plaintiffs were represented by Harvey Strosberg, Q.C., Patricia Speight and Heather Peterson of Sutts Strosberg LLP; C. Scott Ritchie, Q.C., and Mark Poland of Siskind, Cromarty, Ivey and Dowler, LLP; Stanley M. Tick, Q.C., and Walter Stayshyn of Stanley M. Tick & Associates; David Williams of Harrison Pensa LLP; Thomas White of Crawford, Mill & Davies; and Robert Garcia.

The Government of Ontario was represented by a team from McCarthy Tétrault, led by Thomas G. Heintzman, Q.C. and F. Paul Morrison and including Eric Gertner, Caroline R. Zayid, Darryl R. Ferguson, Linda Shin and Grant Worden. The Walkerton Public Utilities Commission was represented by Alan Mark, Tom Friedland and Elizabeth Moore of Goodmans LLP; the Municipality of Brockton was represented by Andrew Roman, Craig Mills and J. Bruce McMeekin of Miller Thomson LLP and Barry Marta of Lawson, McGrenere, Rose & Clemenhagen. The Grey-Bruce Owen Sound Health Unit was represented by Patrick Moore and Allyn Abbott of Rogers, Rogers and Moore.

The third parties to the proceeding were represented as follows: Davidson Well Drilling Limited by John A. Campion and Sophie Vlahakis of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP; Earth Tech (Canada) Inc. by J. Scott Maidment of McMillan Binch; Ian D. Wilson Associates Limited by W. Paul McCague and John Semenoff of McCague, Wires, Peacock, Borlack, McInnis & Lloyd; Conestoga-Rovers & Associates Limited and GAP EnviroMicrobial Services Inc. by Ben A. Jetten of Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP; B.M. Ross and Associates Limited by Robert E. Hutton of Brown Beattie O’Donovan LLP; A & L Canada Laboratories East, Inc. by Paul Vogel and Dawn Kershaw of Cohen Highley LLP; David Biesenthal and Carolyn Biesenthal by Peter T.M. Haney of Mollison, McCormick and Catherine Byrne of Benson Percival Brown.