Nfld. & Labrador

Displaced Mud Lake residents still in limbo as lawyers launch lawsuit

A class-action lawsuit being filed by the victims of a spring flood on the Churchill River is looking for compensation from both Nalcor and the provincial government.

The lawsuit will challenge the independent study undertaken by the province

Saunders is part of a class-action lawsuit claiming negligence by Nalcor and the provincial government. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

About 50 residents affected by flooding on the Churchill River are taking Nalcor and the provincial government to court for damages to their properties in the May flood.

Meanwhile some who were displaced by the flood are still stuck in limbo, with about 15 still in housing on the 5 Wing Goose Bay base.

"We're no farther ahead now … than the day we started," Roland Saunders told CBC. He's been staying at the barracks since just after the flood occurred, unable to return to his property on Mud Lake Road. 

"Starting [over] say like a 19-, 20-year-old just graduating college … basically at 57 years old, I have to do that all over again."

Roland Saunders has been stuck in housing on 5 Wing Goose Bay since just after the flood in May. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Saunders is in line to receive disaster relief funding from the provincial government for his property — and is part of a class-action lawsuit against Nalcor and the provincial government — but he says he is still going back and forth with the government over his assessment.

"I haven't been very happy with the way things are going and I probably won't be happy with the offer as well," Saunders said. "We'll see what happens, I suppose."

Statement of claim

More than 50 residents of Mud Lake and Happy Valley Goose Bay's lower Valley area are part of the pending lawsuit against Nalcor and the provincial government. 

"This is to some degree a moving target, in that we don't know what's going to happen next year or the year after," said Ray Wagner, the lawyer representing them.

Ray Wagner has launched a lawsuit against Nalcor for the flooding that caused the evacuation of Mud Lake and surrounding area May 17. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"But nevertheless the claim is going to be addressed in the issues of what they've already lost."

The claim is both for the damages people's property suffered in the flood as well as the "stress and anxiety of knowing this event has happened and may happen again." 

Ultimately it will be up to a judge to decide who to believe.- Ray Wagner

The lawsuit, whose lead plaintiff is John Chiasson, also points the finger at the Muskrat Falls project, Nalcor and the provincial government for negligence.

"No or no adequate measures or safeguards were taken by the defendants to implement any effective or appropriate methods to prevent the potential of flooding," the statement of claim reads

"Nalcor's operations are conducted in close proximity to the properties. It is reasonably foreseeable that acts or omissions by Nalcor with respect to the project could cause significant harm to the properties."

Nalcor said it would not be commenting on the case as it is before the courts but an independent expert hired by the province to look into the cause of the flooding determined that activities at the Muskrat Falls site played no role in the flooding.

Photos taken from the air in May show the damage from flooding in Mud Lake. (Yvonne Jones)

"The report that was done was not conclusive. It was a position that was established on the evidence that he had looked at," Wagner said.

"It's typical in litigation that you have different points of view, and ultimately it will be up to a judge to decide who to believe."

Wagner says the class-action needs to be certified before going to trial and that could take between six months and a year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker is a videojournalist for CBC Windsor.

With files from Labrador Morning

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