by John Boivin
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice
It’s one step forward, one step back for people involved in a class action lawsuit over a spill of jet fuel in the Slocan River in 2013.
Defendants in the case have appealed Judge D.M. Masuhara’s May 21st ruling that the lawsuit could go ahead. He handed down his decision after changing some of the specifics of the lawsuit to reflect orders received from an appeal of his first ruling on the case.
The lawsuit stems from the July 2013 spill of 35,000 litres of jet fuel into Lemon Creek by a transport driver making a delivery to a firefighting operation. The spill forced thousands of people up to 40 kilometres downstream in the Slocan Valley to evacuate the area.
The spill also killed fish and forced residents to get alternate sources of drinking water for themselves and livestock for days. Residents who were affected by the spill launched the suit for damages.
It’s the second time the case will go to the B.C. Court of Appeal, even before it goes to trial.
Masuhara, the chambers judge reviewing the certification, ruled in 2017 the class action could go ahead – the first time such a class action environmental lawsuit had been approved in British Columbia. But the defendants – the helicopter company, fuel-delivery company, the truck driver, and provincial government – appealed that ruling.
The B.C. Court of Appeal found problems with some of the particulars of the issues to be decided (called the “common issues”), and sent the matter back to Masuhara for a re-determination according to the higher court’s reasons.
After implementing the changes outlined by the Court of Appeal, Masuhara re-certified the lawsuit as a class action.
The proponents filed an appeal to that, but without any details, on June 21. There’s also no date set yet for the appellant court to hear the case.
“We have already been to the Court of Appeal in order to advance the determination of this action and we will do it again if that is what is required to achieve justice for those impacted by the Lemon Creek fuel spill,” said David Aaron, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the suit.