Hamilton

Families launch class-action lawsuit over Red Hill Valley Parkway, citing buried report

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the City of Hamilton on Thursday relating to the crashes on the Red Hill Valley Parkway.

The city received a 2013 report saying the pavement of the road was below UK standards in some spots

A class action lawsuit, still uncertified, has been filed regarding the Red Hill Valley Parkway. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Two families are spearheading a $267-million class action lawsuit against the City of Hamilton on behalf of people who crashed on the Red Hill Valley Parkway (RHVP).

The lawsuit, which still needs to be certified, alleges "negligent design, construction and maintenance of the RHVP." It cites a now-infamous 2013 report showing the highway's pavement was well below UK safety standards for traction in some places, but that city council says it didn't know existed until earlier this year.

None of the claims have been proven in court.

A spokesperson for the city said staff are still reviewing the lawsuit so he was unable to comment on it.

The city is responsible for the "inferior products" used to surface the highway that caused drivers slip, lose control and crash, according to the statement of claim filed by Grosso Hooper Law in Ontario Superior Court Thursday.

"I think that there's lots of innocent accident victims out there who have been waiting for the class-action," said lawyer Robert Hooper, adding he estimates it could involve up to 2,000 people based on the number of crashes on the RHVP since it opened in 2007.

The city is undertaking a judicial inquiry to examine why the 2013 report was buried and if staff acted appropriately once it was discovered. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Hooper said the suit currently involves fewer than 100 potential claimants, but noted plenty of people had contacted his office even before the lawsuit was filed.

"I think that there are lots of other people who are frustrated that they've either had to pay for property damage or lawyers, or traffic tickets or thought that their injuries ... were their own fault," he explained.

Families want to know if deaths could have been prevented

The suit is being lead by the families of Corinne Klassen and Michael Sholer. Klassen, a London homemaker, crashed on the highway in 2007. Sholer died in a 2017 crash.

The suit names Klassen and her husband, along with four members of the Sholer family.

It says Klassen suffered a concussion and musculoskeletal injuries in the crash that left her "totally disabled."

She's seeking damages for her injuries, anxiety, depression, loss of income and her family's mental distress.

The city hid this report for approximately 62 months from the public and allowed traffic collisions to occur on a roadway that was unsafe.- Statement of claim allegation

The Sholer's are seeking damages including funeral costs and compensation for "negligent infliction of psychological damages."

Hooper said many whose loved ones died or were injured want answers.

"They want to get to the bottom of this and figure out whether the death of their family member could have been prevented if the city would have either fixed the road previously or done remedial action."

The lawsuit alleges the city knew, or should have known the roadway wasn't safe and instead "hid" the report and didn't acknowledge its existence until January 2019.

"The city hid this report for approximately 62 months from the public and allowed traffic collisions to occur on a roadway that was unsafe and in a state of non-repair," the lawsuit reads.

Before it can proceed a judge will have to certify that the lawsuit is suitable for being dealt with as a class action, as opposed to each case being dealt with individually.

Resurfacing and judicial inquiry underway

The city has made millions in upgrades to the highway and taken a variety of steps to address safety over the years. It's currently resurfacing the highway, which is happening sooner than originally scheduled because of the discovery of the 2013 report from Tradewind Scientific.

The firm conducted friction studies in 2013. The findings were delivered to the city, but the report was placed in a locked file on the city's network. It wasn't until February of this year that council revelaed its existence. City staff issued a formal apology to councillors and the public.

A judge is also conducting a judicial inquiry into the matter.

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