'Fairness hearing' underway in Walkerton

Residents of Walkerton are having a chance Monday to tell Ontario's top judge what they think of a massive settlement package designed to compensate victims of the deadly E-coli outbreak that killed seven people and made more than 2,000 sick last May.

Chief Justice Patrick LeSage of the Superior Court of Justice will be in Walkerton to hear from residents and lawyers on the negotiated settlement worth more than $30 million.

Monday's "fairness hearing" is designed to help LeSage determine if the no-fault settlement is in the best interests of those affected by last spring's outbreak.

So far, four people have filed letters of objection.

A group of residents went to court after last May's tragedy and demanded more than $250 million in compensation from the provincial government, the local municipality and health unit, the water works and its manager Stan Koebel. Instead, a deal which will see each resident receive at least $2,000 was hammered out.

There is no cap however, on the amount of compensation that can be paid out. If residents continue to suffer health problems over the years, if they lost a family member, or if they can prove the value of their home went down after the tragedy, they can apply for more money.

Last week it was announced LeSage would preside over the fairness hearing instead of Judge Warren Winkler, the Ontario judge who helped the town reach the tentative deal last February.

While LeSage has the option of making a decision immediately following the hearing Monday, it is more likely he won't make up his mind for a matter of weeks.