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Lawyer says $250M Red Hill Valley Parkway class action against Hamilton moving slowly

A lawsuit claiming poor construction and maintenance led to accidents on the Red Hill Valley Parkway is moving slowly amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the lawyer representing the families of crash victims says.
A lawsuit claiming poor construction and maintenance led to accidents on the Red Hill Valley Parkway is moving slowly amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the lawyer representing the families of crash victims says. 900 CHML / Global News

A lawyer from one of two firms involved in a multi-million-dollar lawsuit alleging improper design and maintenance of the Red Hill Valley Parkway (RHVP) says the representative plaintiffs have asked a judge to certify their class action against the City of Hamilton.

Robert Hooper, from the firm Grosso Hooper, says the families of crash victims Corinne Klassen and Michael Sholer filed documents before a justice on Tuesday and have asked for their $250-million class action to go forward.

However, Hooper says due to the COVID-19 pandemic the case is not moving as quickly as he and his clients had hoped.

Read more: Families of Red Hill Valley Parkway crash victims launch $250M class-action lawsuit against City of Hamilton

“We will hopefully meet with Justice (Gerald E.) Taylor either by video conference or in person in the next month or six weeks to set a timetable for the ultimate hearing of certification, which we are guessing right now will be some sometime in the spring of 2021,” said Hooper.

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Two Hamilton law firms, Grosso Hooper and Scarfone Hawkins, are representing drivers who’ve crashed on the RHVP since its opening in 2007.

The two families at the forefront of the claim are relatives of Klassen, a London homemaker who was left disabled by a crash on the highway in 2007, and Sholer, who died in a 2017 crash on the RHVP.

The suit draws much of its evidence from a 2013 Tradewind Scientific report, which analyzed friction levels on the parkway and suggested some safety issues with the roadway.

The audit recommended “remedial actions” and an investigation of the asphalt after friction values were discovered to be “below or well below” U.K. safety standards, which were used as a benchmark in the study.

The report came to light in 2018 when the new director of engineering services for the City of Hamilton came across the Tradewind study and its recommendations for “further examination of the pavement surface, composition and wear performance” and “more investigatory work.”

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The lawsuit alleges three failures by the city tied to the construction of the roadway and two connected to failing to disclose the third-party report to the public.

Read more: Red Hill Valley Parkway Inquiry resumes with virtual session on July 7

The motion by Hooper’s clients to certify the suit comes a week before the resumption of the Red Hill Valley Parkway Inquiry (RHVPI) – commissioned by the city in February of 2019 to answer questions about the Tradewind report.

Although the legal action and inquiry are “apples and oranges” and not dependant on each other, according to Hooper, he and his clients still have some interest in its potential findings.

He expects that with delays tied to the ongoing pandemic, RHVPI Justice Herman Wilton-Siegel will likely not start the inquiry this fall as first anticipated.

“I think the public statements so far from his counsel, Rob Centa, have indicated that that process hasn’t gone quite as fast as they hoped for various reasons, including the pandemic.”

Read more: Red Hill Valley Parkway crash victims, families excluded from public inquiry

In a release at rhvpi.ca, commissioner Wilton-Siegel said the inquiry is still in the “document collection and research phase” and has yet to interview persons of interest connected to the case.

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The post says the coronavirus pandemic “resulted in some delay” due to physical distancing and issues connecting with some participants and non-participants tied to the investigation.

In February, Wilton-Siegel excluded the two law firms’ clients from the probe, saying it was in the best interest of the inquiry to draw from a more “broad-based” coalition of concerned citizens sharing personal experiences connected to crashes on the parkway.

The RHVPI virtual public hearing will take place on Tuesday, July 7 at 10 a.m.

In a statement about the inquiry, city representatives noted that judicial inquiries “are a way for governments to examine issues and problems outside the regular legislative process,” and can help communities with an “independent, neutral examination of public issues. Public inquiries can also help shape public policy and make recommendations that will serve the public in future.”

Hamilton city council approves judicial inquiry over lost study
Hamilton city council approves judicial inquiry over lost study
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