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First Cambie merchants win damages in Canada Line construction class-action suit

Construction crews use the 'cut and cover' method of tunneling on Cambie Street in 2009.
Construction crews use the 'cut and cover' method of tunneling on Cambie Street in 2009. Global News

It’s been a decade in the making, but three Vancouver businesses have finally won compensation for disruption during the construction of the SkyTrain Canada Line.

Leonard Schein, owner of the Park Theatre; Dale Dubberley, operating the Thai Away Home restaurant; and Gary Gautam, owner of the Cambie General Store, brought their class-action suit against TransLink in the wake of the 2005-2009 construction.

The trio claimed that the construction — which involved digging a massive trench rather than boring a tunnel, a method known as “cut and cover” — drove away customers and cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost profits.

READ MORE: Commercial Drive businesses threaten to sue Fortis over business lost during 1st Ave. closure

In 2016, the BC Supreme Court ruled that members of the class action couldn’t sue for lost revenues, but were eligible to sue for compensation over the effect on the rental value of the property they owned or occupied.

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On Tuesday the court delivered the first rulings in regards to that compensation.

“What the cut and cover method of construction caused, of course, was the digging up of Cambie Street in a manner that greatly restricted access to the plaintiffs’ businesses over a lengthy period of time,” states the ruling.

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“It was not, however, the degree of interference at any given moment that was intolerable; rather, I find, it was the length of time over which access was restricted that made the interference intolerable to the businesses in question.”

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While the court was not ruling on lost revenues, it did open the business’ books, comparing net income and gross revenue for the years before, during and after the Canada Line’s construction in order to determine impact and damages.

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After reviewing the numbers, it awarded Schein $128,000, Dubberly $44,560 and Gautam $7,600.

READ MORE: Small businesses should be compensated for transit construction: CFIB

The damages are likely just the first that TransLink will be ordered to pay.

In the judgment, the court says the three businesses’ complaint forms a test case, and that “it is contemplated that the claims of the remaining plaintiffs will be resolved in accordance with the parameters I set in this case.”

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The award comes just a week after businesses on Commercial Drive threatened to sue Fortis BC over the alleged business impacts of a gas line replacement that closed East 1st Avenue for two months.

It also comes the same week as the province unveiled new details about the planned construction of a SkyTrain Millennium Line subway along West Broadway.