THUNDER BAY — More than nine years after hundreds of Thunder Bay homeowners experienced basement flooding or sewage backups during a heavy rainstorm, one big step – and still more time – remains to be taken before a court can consider their arguments for compensation from the city.
Although a date for hearing a class action lawsuit against the city could finally be set in 2022, whether the trial would take place next year depends on court availability.
The lawsuit seeks as much as $375 million for damages and out-of-pocket costs involving potentially more than 1,400 households.
It alleges that the Atlantic Avenue sewage treatment plant failed during the May 29, 2012 storm because of the city's negligence.
The city has denied responsibility for the flooding of homes, saying it did everything reasonable to deal with an extraordinary event in which 108 millimetres of rain fell over 36 hours, including 50 millimetres in just a one-hour period.
Megan McPhee of the Toronto law firm Kim, Spencer, McPhee says the two sides most recently have engaged in the discovery component of the case.
"So we've been exchanging documents with the [city]. We've received approximately 5,500 documents so far, with more to come, we expect. We are currently scheduled to proceed with oral discoveries in early November," McPhee said in an interview Tuesday.
"Each side puts forward their representatives. On the plaintiffs' side, we have our [five] representative plaintiffs. The defendant will put forward a representative to provide the evidence for the city."
McPhee said oral discoveries are the last major step before a trial, and her firm's goal is to obtain a trial date next year.
Attempts to resolve the lawsuit through mediation by a retired Supreme Court of Canada justice failed last year.
When asked if the time for an out-of-court settlement has passed, McPhee said "reasonable parties are always open to discussing settlement if there's a way that we can resolve this. We've worked very closely with our experts, and we're very confident in our case."
She declined to say whether the city at any point has made an offer to settle, explaining "there's some confidential stuff that we can't discuss."
Dougall Media requested an interview or a statement from the City of Thunder Bay, but did not receive a response.