Environmental Alert: BC Court Certified a Class Action resulting from an environmental spill

BC Court Certified a Class Action resulting from an environmental spill


Robert J. Lesperance, Partner
Phone:  604-685-8737
Email: rjl@lmlaw.ca



Kirk v. Executive Flight Centre Fuel Services 2017 BCSC 726

In 2017 the BC Supreme Court certified a class action by residents who allege they were affected by a spill of jet fuel in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia.

In July 2013, there was a wildfire in the Slocan Valley and the Provincial Government retained a helicopter company to provide helicopter services to assist in fighting the forest fire.  Another company was retained to transport jet fuel for the helicopters at the Province’s staging area to fight the forest fire.  The spill of jet fuel occurred when a large tanker truck, containing the Jet A-1 fuel, overturned after the driver of the truck made a wrong turn trying to find the staging area. Approximately 35,000 litres of the jet fuel spilled into Lemon Creek.  Lemon Creek flows into the Slocan River which flows into the Kootenay River.  After the Province was alerted to the spill, the Regional District involved ordered the evacuation of local residents from the area where the spill occurred and within a three kilometre radius of spill site (the “Evacuation Zone”).  The Interior Health Authority issued a “do not use water” orders for residents drawing water from the affected waterways.

The representative plaintiff sued the fuel tanker company and the Province of BC and sought to certify the class action on behalf of all persons who owned, leased or rented or occupied real property the date of the spill within the Evacuation Zone.

The cause of action alleged is a “single incident mass tort” and sought damages for negligence, nuisance and the rule in Rylands v. Fletcher.  The claim for damages included loss of use and enjoyment of property and the diminution in the market value of property.  The plaintiff also sought exemplary and punitive damages.

The court certified the action as a ‘class action’ under BC’s Class Proceedings Act (the “Act”) and found that the claim satisfied the test for class actions under the Act as follows:

  1. The pleadings disclosed a cause of action against each defendant;
  2. There was an identifiable class;
  3. The pleadings raised common issues;
  4. The representative plaintiff was a suitable representative; and
  5. A class action was the preferred means of resolving all the common issues.

While this decision is under appeal to the BC Court of Appeal, the case illustrates that the courts are prepared to certify cases, as class actions, which involve large spills or releases of contamination over a wide area.

WHAT WE DO:  Lesperance Mendes has been advising property owners and others on environmental law since 1997.  If you are dealing with a contaminated site or other environmental law issue, please contact Robert Lesperance, Partner, at 604-685-8737 or rjl@lmlaw.ca.

THIS ARTICLE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE:  This article provides general information and should not be relied on without independent legal advice.