Just days after a massive explosion at a propane transfer facility in Toronto, a $300 million class action lawsuit is being launched.
On August 10, 2008, in the early morning hours, a massive explosion at Sunrise Propane Industrial Gases in Toronto shook people from their sleep. The blast sent fireballs into the sky which could be seen as far away as Niagara Falls.
While firefighters raced to get the flames under control, thousands of neighbourhood residents had to be evacuated. The blast injured numerous people and have left at least one firefighter and one civilian dead; the latter’s charred remains were found at the site of the explosion.
While most evacuees have returned to their homes, several buildings remain closed to residents over concerns of structural stability.
Stevensons LLP and Bogoroch & Associates have announced their intention to file a class action suit against Sunrise Propane, the City of Toronto, and the provincial government.
The bases of the claim, according to the suit’s website, are:
negligence, nuisance, trespass, strict liability (Rylands v. Fletcher) and liability pursuant to the Occupiers’ Liability Act, R.S.O. C. O.2., the Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.19 and the Family Law Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F.3.
According to the Globe and Mail, about 20 years ago Toronto passed a regulation restricting zoning for propane transfer facilities. However, the city had to repeal the by-law in 1995 after a similar regulation of the City of York was defeated by propane companies. The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the by-law was in conflict with provincial law:
“The terms of the by-law are consistent with the intention to give effect to safety concerns.
… First, there is the operative conflict to which we have referred. Second, the authority of the municipality relates, generally, to land use planning and not safety respecting propane handling.”
(Superior Propane Inc. v. York (City) (1995), 23 O.R. (3d) 161 (C.A.))
Not surprisingly, the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario are playing the blame game with each other. In light of the above Court of Appeal decision, Toronto contends that it was the responsibility of the provincial regulatory boards to ensure the safety of propane transfer facilities.
Both the City of Toronto and the province have been named as defendants in the pending suit. Responsibility for the blast will again be left to the courts to sort out.