Class action lawsuit approved in Highway 13 blizzard debacle
Published Tuesday, November 14, 2017 1:09PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, November 18, 2017 8:21AM EST
Quebec Superior Court has approved a class-action lawsuit involving people who were stuck on Highway 13 following a snowstorm in March.
This lawsuit, being managed by the law firms of Deveau Avocats and Trudel Johnston and Lesperance, is against the city of Montreal, the province of Quebec, and the SAAQ.
The lead defendant is Gilles Beauchamp who was stuck until 3 a.m.
According to court filings, he was suffering from a sports-related injury at the time and so was in pain, without access to medication.
There was another lawsuit involving Marlene Berman as lead plaintiff, but that has been merged with this legal case.
The eligible defendants will include the hundreds of people who were stuck on Highway 13 South and Highway 520 East (Cote de Liesse) between 7 p.m on March 14 and noon on March 15, 2017.
The legal filings allege the province and the city of Montreal erred in managing traffic and snow removal during a storm, and in failing to provide emergency services.
“People just kept accumulating and getting stuck and stuck even more, and then the snow started to pile up and it just became even worse,” said one of the plaintiffs, Isabelle Louis XVI.
Plantiffs are seeking $2,000 in damages, with an additional $500 in exemplary and punitive damages.
There’s also a goal to ensure this doesn’t happen again, said lawyer Andre Lesperance of Trudel Johnston and Lesperance.
“To send a signal to the government that we live a society in Montreal where there's snow, and storms and they should be ready for that,” he said.
Quebec Superior Court Justice Donald Bisson has approved the suit, with 1,649 claimants. He noted drivers were stuck in their cars for about 10 hours without food or water and had no heat if they ran out of gas.
“This is a very simple case. The fault is not even contested by the government,” said Lesperance. “There was obviously a fault. The government did not do the right thing that day. Instead of helping people, they just did nothing.”
A report released earlier this year public policy consultant Florent Gagné blamed Transport Quebec and the Sureté de Quebec for failing to help people stuck in their cars.
“We had no answers and nobody around us who could actually help us,” said Louis XVI.
The highways were blocked on March 14 after three trucks jackknifed on the snowy highway.
Gagné said police initially failed to realize there were hundreds of drivers stuck, and then could not communicate that to people in charge, saying there was "a major organizational flaw in the monitoring and warning process in place at the transport ministry and also at the SQ."
The government said improvements have been made since the incident.
“We don’t ever want to see a situation like what happen on Highway 13 every happen in Quebec,” said Transport Minister Andre Fortin.