Lawsuit approved for stranded Hwy. 13 drivers after massive Montreal snowstorm
A class-action lawsuit linked to the massive pileup on Highway 13 last March was approved by a Quebec Superior Court judge Tuesday.
About 300 motorists were stranded after a major snowstorm on the autoroute — some of them were stuck for over 12 hours in 40 centimetres of snow.
“The whole next day I couldn’t work. I was dehydrated, I stayed up all night,” said Annemarie Bagshaw, who was stranded for 14 hours and didn’t get home until 8 a.m. the next day.
“It took a day and a half for my system to come back to normal.”
Some drivers spent the night in their vehicles while others abandoned their cars and left on foot after waiting hours in vain for help.
The incident led to a provincial probe.
In his May report, investigator Florent Gagné concluded authorities underestimated the severity of the problems and communicated poorly with each other.
WATCH BELOW: Snowstorm showdown
He added there weren’t enough people working in the transport department the night of the storm and transport minister at the time, Laurent Lessard, can’t be blamed for inaction because critical details weren’t brought to his attention.
Tuesday, Judge Donald Bisson confirmed that those who were stranded have the right to sue.
READ MORE: Snowstorm wreaks havoc on Quebec highways
Lawyers for those stranded are asking for $2,000 per person in compensation for moral damages for the stress and anxiety endured, as well as property damage in some cases and $500 in punitive damages to each person involved due to “glaring omissions” by the City of Montreal and the Province of Quebec.
They are requesting compensation for members of the lawsuit for damages from what they call “gross negligence” on the part of the defendants.
“I hope it doesn’t happen again to anybody else. It’s Montreal — we have snowstorms every day. We have to be better organized,” Bagshaw told Global News.
“I’d like to know what’s their strategy for the next [time]. I’d like for the city to compensate us. I know some people lost on work.”
Quebec’s transport ministry says it is working towards change.
It says teams are being added to both the Quebec and Montreal traffic control centres.
GPS tracking devices will be installed in all snow removal trucks operating for the government.
“So that we know how many trucks are on the road, what they plowed, how much, when’s the last time that they went through, how much salt they’ve put on the roads,” said Quebec transport minister André Fortin.
“That’s information that we have now that we didn’t have before.”
When it comes to compensation, the government argues people should knock on someone else’s door: the province’s automobile insurance board (SAAQ).
“They claim this was a car accident,” said André L’Espérance, one of the lawyers leading the lawsuit.
“If it is a car accident, it’s covered by the Loi des Accidents d’automobile. They claim there can’t be any lawsuit.”
Anyone who was stuck on Highway 13 and the 520 between 7 p.m. and 12 p.m. on March 14 to 15 is automatically a part of the lawsuit, unless they choose to opt out.
In the next couple of weeks, the judge will authorize the publication of notices regarding the lawsuit.
The trial will likely start at the end of 2018.
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