A year to the day after hundreds of people were stranded on Highway 13 during a blizzard, one of the lawyers in the class action lawsuit said negotiations towards a settlement are taking place.

Marc-Antoine Cloutier said that last week, the provincial government agreed to out-of-court talks toward a settlement, while the city of Montreal has refused.

The city says it should not have any responsibility for what occurred and is arguing that the SAAQ should handle the matter according to its rules for compensating those injured or affected while in their vehicles.

As of yet there is no formal agreement to hold talks.

Last November Quebec Superior Court Justice Donald Bisson approved the class action lawsuit involving 1,649 claimants, noting at the time that motorists were stuck in their cars for about 10 hours without food or water and had no heat if they ran out of fuel for their cars.

At that time the two requests for class action lawsuits were merged.

The complainants are asking for $2,000 in damages with an additional $500 each in punitive damages.

One of those complainants is Jacques Laramée, who had been heading home after spending the day in Ste. Jerome with his daughter.

As someone with diabetes he was very concerned about his health.

"In my car I had no water. Excuse me," he said, as he stifled tears when discussing what happened that night. "I had nothing to drink, nothing to eat, I did not have my medication with me. I am 65 years old, I have diabetes, and I felt trapped."

He said that even when he worked in a bank and was robbed, he felt less stress than he did during the ten hours he was stuck in his car.

Laramée has since packed an emergency kit in his car that contains food, water, binoculars, and other essentials.

During a blizzard that began on March 14, 2017, Highway 13 near Highway 520 was blocked when several 18-wheelers jackknifed.

A report released last year by public policy consultant Florent Gagné blamed Transport Quebec and the Sureté de Quebec for failing to help people stuck in their cars, with the SQ first failing to realize motorists were stuck, followed by officers at the scene not informing those in charge of what had happened.


Better monitoring with command post

The SQ set up a command post six days after the storm that officers say will make what happened on Highway 13 unlikely to occur again.

“We are four officers who work here, every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to treat those kinds of events,” said SQ Insp. Luc Pellerin.

With 500 camera angles and maps of the province, there’s also a link to every call that comes into the SQ and to every officer on the ground.

“The major event appears on their screens,” explained Pellerin who runs the centre.

Pellerin said the difference now is the rapid response; high-ranking officers are authorized to dispatch whatever is needed.

“They have the authority to call the canine, the bomb tech, the helicopters or the rescue-and-search,” he said.

Events are tracked and dealt with immediately.

“They're able to take that information and turn that information into action in real time, right away,” explained Pellerin.

Officers on the ground can communicate directly with the command post that has a much broader view of what's happening.

“We're not only able to react to a request for help in real time, 24 /7, we're also able to see a wider view of what's going on. And the perspective is everything. It changes everything,” said SQ Sgt. Daniel Thibaudeau.