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Sumas Prairie flood lawsuit can proceed as class action, judge rules

Plaintiffs allege that city ‘breached its duty of care’ in November 2021
A class-action lawsuit can proceed against the City of Abbotsford for damages in the November 2021 flooding on Sumas Prairie, a B.C. Supreme Court justice has ruled. (Vikki Hopes/Abbotsford News)

The B.C. Supreme Court has certified a class-action lawsuit against the City of Abbotsford for damages that occurred during the November 2021 flooding on Sumas Prairie.

The decision was issued Wednesday (May 29) in Abbotsford by Justice Dev Dley, who said a class action would be the “preferable procedure for the fair and efficient resolution of the common issues.”

The initial lawsuit was filed in December 2021 by residents Caroline Mostertman and Robert Gordon, who has since died, to recoup losses from the city after the Sumas Dike overflowed its banks during the atmospheric river.

They claimed that the city “breached its duty of care” by failing to close the flood boxes at the Barrowtown pump station, knowing that a storm was coming, and by not having enough staff on hand at the station in the days before and during the flood.

“Water from the Fraser River back-flooded into the outer Sumas Prairie and rose to the extent that it caused the Sumas Dike to breach, flooding the inner Sumas Prairie,” Justice Dley wrote in Wednesday’s decision.

Mostertman and Gordon sought to have the case turned into a class action, which required certification through the courts.

A class action involves several individuals seeking justice for an alleged injury done to them by the same defendant.

RELATED: Sumas Prairie flood lawsuit continues to move toward class action

The city has responded in civil court documents that the disaster unfolded so quickly that “no notice could have given the plaintiffs time to take steps to avoid or mitigate their loss.”

“Although Abbotsford acknowledges that many residents of the city suffered substantial upheaval and property damage, it maintains that the flooding was caused by the Nooksack River (in Washington State),” Justice Dley wrote in Wednesday’s decision.

The city opposed the application for certification of a class action, saying that anyone with an alleged claim should file individually. There are more than 1,400 properties in the Sumas Prairie area, Dley wrote.

“Even if only a small fraction of those properties decided to pursue claims arising out of the flooding, this would result in a multitude of proceedings,” he stated.

“ … The class proceeding provides for a single and consistent management of the issues that are common to the claimant class.”

Vancouver law firm Slater Vecchio LLP has been appointed to represent the plaintiffs.

Lawyer Anthony Vecchio said the judge’s decision to proceed as a class action is a “significant step forward to obtaining access of justice by allowing the plaintiffs’ action to proceed to trial.”

He said those affected will be notified “in due course” regarding the next steps in the class action.

Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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