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Case Summary: Antrim Truck Centre Ltd v Ontario (Transportation), 2013 SCC 13 – Part I

Mar 26

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3/26/2013 10:26 AM  RssIcon

On March 7, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in Antrim Truck Centre Ltd v Ontario (Transportation), 2013 SCC 13, allowing the appeal and overturning the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal.  Our case summary of the Ontario Court of Appeal decision was posted on October 15, 2012.  With the blog-medium in mind, this case summary will be broken into two parts in order to keep the articles to a reasonable length.

In the 2011 decision of Antrim Truck Centre Limited v Ontario (Transportation), 2011 ONCA 419, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the decision of the Ontario Divisional Court, which had upheld a decision of the Ontario Municipal Board to award the claimant (appellant at the Supreme Court of Canada), Antrim Truck Centre Limited, damages of $393,000 for injurious affection.

The facts of the case involve the rerouting of a highway near Ottawa, Ontario, around the claimant’s truck stop.  From 1978 to 2004, the appellant owned property on Highway 17, on which it operated a truck stop, restaurant, and gas bar.  Much of its business came from drivers travelling along the highway. 

In September of 2004, the respondent opened a new section of Highway 417 running parallel to Highway 17 near the appellant’s property.  The alteration to Highway 17 restricted access to the  appellant’s land in that Motorists travelling on the new highway did not have direct access to the appellant’s truck stop.  The appellant was effectively put out of business.  No land was taken by the respondent.

On appeal from the Ontario Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Cromwell, writing for a unanimous court, noted at paragraph two that the main question on the appeal was how the court should decide whether an interference with the private use and enjoyment of land is unreasonable when it results from construction which serves an important public purpose.  Justice Cromwell said:

The answer, as I see it, is that the reasonableness of the interference must be determined by balancing the competing interests, as it is in all other cases of private nuisance.  The balance is appropriately struck by answering the question whether, in all the circumstances, the individual claimant has shouldered a greater share of the burden of construction than it would be reasonable to expect individuals to bear without compensation.

The court noted at paragraph 4 that injurious affection occurs when a defendant’s activities interfere with a claimant’s use or enjoyment of land.  Such interference may occur where a portion of an owner’s land is expropriated with negative effects on the value of the remaining property.  Alternatively, it may arise where, although no land is expropriated, the lawful activities of a statutory authority on one piece of land interfere with the use or enjoyment of another property.

At paragraph 5, Justice Cromwell summarized the three statutory requirements for a claim for damages for injurious affection where no land is taken as the requirements of “statutory authority”, “actionability”, and “construction and not the use”.  This is elaborated upon in our blog entry on the Antrim Court of Appeal decision.

Beginning at paragraph 18, the Supreme Court of Canada looked at the elements of private nuisance, noting that the elements of a claim in private nuisance have often been expressed in terms of a two-part test:  to support a claim in private nuisance, the interference with the owner’s use or enjoyment of land must be both substantial and unreasonable.  The court said that a substantial interference with property is one that is non-trivial.  Where this threshold is met, the inquiry proceeds to the reasonableness analysis, which is concerned with whether the non-trivial interference was also unreasonable in all of the circumstances.

The court noted at paragraph 21 that retaining a substantial interference threshold underlines the important point that not every interference is an actionable nuisance.  At paragraph 22, the court noted that compensation will not be awarded for “trivial annoyances”:  “A substantial injury to the complainant’s property interest is one that amounts to more than a slight annoyance or trifling interference.”

The court noted at paragraph 23 that nuisance may take a variety of forms and may include not only actual physical damage to land but also interference with the health, comfort or convenience of the owner or occupier.  The categories of interference are open.

In our next article, we will continue the summary of Antrim, getting into the Supreme Court of Canada’s reasonableness analysis.

If you have questions or would like to discuss this topic further, please contact Jeremy P. Smith at Patterson Law at 1-888-897-2001.