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Court victory paves way for Cambie class action

VANCOUVER - A former Cambie Street merchant's successful lawsuit over Canada Line construction could bore a tunnel straight to the courts for other businesses hit hard by fallout from the massive rapid transit project.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge awarded Susan Heyes $600,000 in damages due to business losses from construction of the Canada Line in a decision released yesterday.

Lawyer Joseph Arvay thinks the result will only benefit his clients, who are proposing a class action lawsuit on behalf of all Cambie Street merchants.

The lawsuit has already been filed, but it has yet to be certified as class action, where multiple plaintiffs with similar claims are represented in the same case.

"But it's fair to say we are delighted with the decision," Arvay said.

Heyes, who moved her Hazel & Co. store to Main Street earlier this year, was no less thrilled.

"This is a long time coming," Heyes said of her four-year "nightmare," which, she says, saw her lose $900,000 in revenue due to the construction.

In his decision, Justice Ian Pitfield ruled the controversial "cut-and-cover" method used to build parts of the project was "the sole cause" of Heyes' losses.

It's not clear whether the decision will be appealed. In a statement, lawyers for CLCO said they were still reviewing the decision.

While heaving blame for the construction "nuisance" on TransLink, its subsidiary Canada Line Rapid Transit Inc. (CLCO) and the private consortium set up to build and operate the line, InTransitBC, Pitfield ruled the government of Canada and the Attorney General of B.C. weren't liable since they weren't technically "partners" in the project despite having funded it.

And the City of Vancouver, as property owner, was spared as well, with Pitfield ruling the city couldn't have known its property would be used "in a manner that would cause a nuisance."

It's not yet clear whether the decision will be appealed. In a statement, lawyers for CLCO said they were still reviewing the decision.

"It will take some time to review the judgment in detail," CLCO lawyer George Macintosh said in a prepared statement.

"Once we have done that we will consider the options available to us."

For her part, Heyes said the entire ordeal could have been avoided had the government and the consortium in charge of building the Canada Line helped offset business losses in the very beginning.

“They had so many opportunities to do the right thing and they didn’t,” Heyes said.

“It’s really gratifying to know that you can take a stand like this and be rewarded for standing up for yourself and standing up for your community.”

Irwin Loy reports for Vancouver 24 hours.

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