In April 2000, the plaintiffs commenced an action against the defendants, Shell Canada Limited and Shell Canada Products Limited under the Class Proceedings Act (Court File No. 33905). The plaintiffs both reside in the County of Lambton, in the City of Sarnia and the City of Corunna respectively. The defendants operate a refinery that produces natural gas and natural gas liquids, crude oil, bitumen and sulphur in the City of Corunna, Ontario.
On March 16, 2000, the release flare at the Shell Canada refinery went out causing hydrocarbons, sulphur carbons, and hydrogen sulphide to be released into the atmosphere. The gases spread throughout the County of Lambton, affecting industry and residences.
The plaintiffs rely on the following causes of action:
1. The plaintiffs claim that the defendants are strictly liable for the release of the gases from their premises.
2. The plaintiffs claim that the defendants are liable under the law of nuisance, which includes public nuisance. "The release of gases . . . caused an unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of the plaintiffs' land and caused a substantial and unreasonable interference with the reasonable comfort and convenience of the surrounding community".
3. In addition, the plaintiffs claim that the defendants are liable for loss and/or damages incurred pursuant to Part X (Spills) of the Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. c.E.19.
4. In the alternative, the plaintiffs claim that the defendants are liable in negligence for failing to:
- ensure that adequate equipment, procedures, or safety procedures were in place to prevent the release of the gases or to determine the concentration of the gases;
- warn the plaintiffs and other class members in a timely fashion of the release of the gases; and
- warn the authorities of the release of the gases in a timely fashion.
The plaintiffs claim the following damages:
- punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages in the amount of $250,000.00, as well as special damages in an amount to be determined at a later date;
- personal injuries and damages including, irritation of the eyes, skin and respiratory tract, nausea, vomiting, headaches, sore throats, dizziness, fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, collapsed lungs, loss of amenities and enjoyment of life, anxiety, nervous shock, mental distress, emotional upset, loss of income and out of pocket expenses;
- potential long term health consequences, which are not yet known;
- interruption of business and loss of profit;
- cleaning and/or replacement costs for damage to personal property due to residue and fumes (including automobiles, clothing, ventilation systems, interior and exterior walls, etc.)