|Property owners divided over CN compensation
|October 31, 2005
To sue, or not to sue. That is the question dividing Wabamun, Alberta residents, who are still waiting to see if CN rail will come forward
with fair settlement offers for the damage caused by the August 3rd derailment and oil spill.
Two groups of residents are putting pressure on the national rail company in very different ways, and a threatened class-action lawsuit by
one group could tank the other's efforts for a quick, out-of-court settlement.
"Our whole idea is to find a fair and equitable solution fairly quickly," says Doug Goss, chairman of the Lake Wabamun residents
committee, which is trying to avoid court. Goss says his group has been in regular contact with CN and is pleased with the speed at
which things are progressing.
He says CN has been expeditious and forthcoming with the group's concerns over cleanup of the lake, preventative practices and settling
damage claims. "It's not likely anything will be decided by the end of October, but things are going well and we haven't felt it necessary to
threaten legal action yet," Goss said.
A second group of 50 to 100 residents plans to take CN to task through the courts in a class-action lawsuit under the guidance of lawyer
Goss acknowledged the class action - which has yet to be recognized by a court - could jeopardize his group's dealings with CN. "A
class action could scare them away from our table, but our discussions with CN are positive enough that they shouldn't be derailed by
that. "It's in the interests of both Wabamun residents and CN to avoid litigation. Class actions take many, many years to settle."
Kolthammer said he's had no contact from CN but doubts they'll offer anything equitable to Wabamun residents without legal pressure.
"One resident (not associated with the class action) said he thought we were screwing their chances because CN looked like they might
settle," Kolthammer said. "But if they do settle, and if we're certified as a class, everyone has the option of opting out and taking a
CN officials did not return calls from the Edmonton Sun on October 29th.
On August 3, 2005, a CN train derailed on the shore of Lake Wabamun, spilling 700,000 litres of bunker oil and other chemicals.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the cause of the derailment continues. Transportation Safety Board investigator Art Nordholm said
results are many months away, and that parts for the rail line are currently being scrutinized in an Ottawa lab.
Source: Brookes Merritt – Edmonton Sun