In St. Lawrence Cement Inc. v. Barrette, on November 20, 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that a person may be liable under Quebec law – even in the absence of wrongful conduct (i.e., at no fault) – if his or her acts or omissions result in an abnormal annoyance to a neighbour. This liability regime in Quebec is in addition to a person’s potential civil liability if his or her wrongful conduct (such as a violation of regulatory requirements) results in a neighbourhood disturbance. In St. Lawrence Cement, a class action had been brought against the operators of a cement plant for creating dust, odour and noise disturbances in a Quebec neighbourhood. The Court concluded that article 976 of the Quebec Civil Code allowed the class to bring an action to end the disturbance because the suffering of the neighbours (the class members) exceeded the limits of normal annoyance. This decision overturned the Quebec Court of Appeal’s conclusion that liability cannot be imposed in the absence of the defendant’s wrongful conduct. Although this decision is specific to the Code, the Supreme Court did note that it is consistent with the approach to civil liability under Canadian common law, where actions in nuisance (i.e., the unreasonable interference with the use of land) focus on the harm suffered rather than on the prohibited conduct.
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