The Camerons owned and operated a truck stop located on Highway 17, the Antrim Truck Centre. In 2004 the province undertook construction of a new highway, Highway 417, which rerouted traffic from Highway 17 for public safety purposes. Antrim filed on the basis that the project substantially interfered with its use and enjoyment of its property and sought a determination of compensation for injurious affection under the Expropriation Act. The Ontario Municipal Board awarded damages of $393,000. Both parties unsuccessfully appealed to the Divisional Court. The court held that the test for nuisance was met based on the substantial interference with access to respondent's business caused the construction of the highway. With the business completely dependent on trucking, the interference was sufficiently proximate to support an actionable claim.
- Does the rerouting of a highway constitute a nuisance in law, and if so, what right does the plaintiff have in damages?
Appeal allowed, decisions of the Ontario Municipal Board and Divisional Court overturned.
The court held that although the board properly found that the substantial interference threshold was met, the board's reasonableness analysis was flawed. The reasonableness analysis requires the consideration of four factors:
- the severity of the interference;
- the character of the neighbourhood;
- the utility of the defendant's conduct; and
- the sensitivity of the plaintiff.
As the board did not consider the character of the neighbourhood, respondent's abnormal sensitivity and the elevated importance of the Crown's conduct in the context of providing an essential public service to alleviate the significant safety risk posed by Highway 17, this resulted in a failure to balance the parties' competing interests. Applying the board's factual findings to the reasonableness analysis supported a conclusion that the interference caused by the Crown's conduct was not unreasonable given the public interest served by the project.
When considering a nuisance claim caused by a public work, a reasonable analysis must be performed to balance the parties' competing interests.