On November 20, 2008 the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in St. Lawrence Cement Inc. v. Barrette, reinstating a lower court ruling that had awarded $15 million in damages against a cement plant for emitting dust, odours and noise over many years.
The lawsuit was brought as a class action on behalf of over 2,000 neighbours of the plant. They alleged that the cement plant had contravened Article 976 of Quebec's Civil Code, which provides that "Neighbours shall suffer the normal neighbourhood annoyances that are not beyond the limit of tolerance they owe each other, according to the nature or location of their land or local custom." The Supreme Court held that Article 976 imposes liability for nuisances on a no-fault basis. That is, it is not necessary to establish that the defendant did something wrong - the focus of Article 976 is on "the extent of the annoyances suffered by the victim rather than on the conduct of the person who allegedly caused them". The Court noted that this no-fault liability is consistent with the common law of nuisance which applies in other provinces.
Accordingly, the Court ruled against the cement company even though it had made extensive investments in pollution control measures and had complied with environmental regulations, and was authorized to operate the plant in this particular location under provincial law.
The Supreme Court's decision is available at: