“Public nuisance” environmental class actions have not fared well in the U.S. recently, but apparently not so in Canada. Close on the heels of the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s decision in Rhode Island v. Lead Industries Association, the Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed a Quebec Superior Court’s finding of liability based on the theory that a company’s emissions constituted “excessive annoyance” to surrounding residents even though the company had complied with all applicable environmental laws and regulations and was otherwise without fault.
I have not seen the opinion, but according to news reports, the court limited the availability of class action remedy to landowners, excluding tenants and family members. This suggests that court was persuaded that claims for damage to property value could be treated on a class-wide basis, but not personal injury claims. Whatever the limitation on the availability of damages, however, there can be little doubt that this decision will have a big impact on the course of environmental litigation in Canada, if not in the U.S. too.