In the Oscar-nominated Disney-Pixar feature Cars, the fictional town of Radiator Springs, formerly a popular stopover spot along U.S. Route 66, was financially devastated by the construction of Interstate 40 which bypassed the town. The Supreme Court of Canada considered a case with eerily similar facts. In Antrim Truck Centre Ltd. v. Ontario (Transportation), 2013 SCC 13, the Province of Ontario (the “Province”) created an extension of a section of Highway 417. The extension crippled the appellant’s truck stop business as it rendered Highway 17 obsolete. The truck stop owner sought damages for injurious affection, which may be sought even where no land is expropriated but where “the lawful activities of a statutory authority on one piece of land interfere with the use or enjoyment of another property.”
Justice Cromwell held that the truck stop was entitled to damages for injurious affection. He found that all three statutory requirements to recover damages for injurious affection under the Expropriations Act were met: (i) the damage resulted from action taken under statutory authority; (ii) the action would give rise to liability but for the statutory authority; and, (iii) the damage resulted from the construction and not use of the works. The second requirement, which was the only one in dispute, was met because the truck stop owner would have been entitled to damages for private nuisance. Private nuisance can be established if the interference with one’s property is substantial and unreasonable and could not reasonably be expected to be borne by the owner without compensation. Whether the nature of the defendant’s conduct is unreasonable is irrelevant to the analysis.
It would appear on the surface that, just as every fairy tale ends, the residents of Radiator Springs as well as the truck stop owner on Highway 17 lived happily ever after. However, this case may have negative consequences on future infrastructure projects. When considering whether to undertake necessary infrastructure projects, the Province as well as municipalities may be forced to delay or scrap the projects altogether for fear of injurious affection lawsuits.