Two farms on Sumas Prairie are asking BC Supreme Court to certify a class action against the city of Abbotsford, Fraser Valley Regional District, and the province for their failure to warn property owners, residents and businesses of the flooding that inundated Sumas Prairie in November and to respond in a timely and appropriate manner.
The plaintiffs named in the suit, filed by the Vancouver law firm Slater Vecchio LLP, include dairy farmer Ted Dykman of Dykman Cattle Co. on Vye Road and Caroline Mostertman of Ripples Estate Winery – part of a venture formally known C.P.M. Farms Ltd. – on Tolmie Road.
According to the statement of claim, Dykman, Mostertman and other class members “seek to hold the Defendants accountable for their gross negligence and to recover their losses.”
The court filing outlines the history of flooding on Sumas Prairie, and notes how the situation was handled in Washington State before detailing the steps taken in Canada and how the response fell short.
“Despite the well-documented history of flooding and consequential devastation in the Sumas Prairie, the Defendants failed to provide any or adequate warning to the Plaintiffs and Class Members,” the writ states.
If warnings had been given, the writ says that members of the proposed class action would have been able to take steps to safeguard their possessions and mitigate the damage.
“The duty of care owed by the Defendants to the Plaintiffs and Class Members is informed by the inherent danger and foreseeably high risk of serious injury, death and loss of personal and real property if the Defendants fail to adequately warn or act in a timely manner,” the write claims. “Had the Defendants properly warned the Plaintiffs and Class Members of the risk posed by the weather and related circumstances that eventually caused the Sumas Flood, then the Plaintiffs and Class Members could have taken steps to prevent or mitigate their losses.”
This did not happen, though the writ says the plaintiffs should have known that flooding was certain given the weather forecasts.
The defendants have not yet filed a response to the claim, which has yet to be heard by the courts. However, in media briefings in the immediate aftermath of the onset of flooding, officials with both Abbotsford and the province repeatedly described the situation as unprecedented, dynamic and difficult to predict.
A timeline for certification of the class action, which could potentially include hundreds of property owners, has not been given. In addition to general damages, damages for services provided by family members and special damages, the action seeks punitive damages for misconduct that “departs to a marked degree from ordinary standards of decent behaviour” and offends “the moral standards of the community.”
Costs and such other relief as the court deems just are also sought.
Representatives of Slater Vecchio did not respond to a request for comment.