City facing a number of civil lawsuits

Two B.C. Supreme Court civil suits were filed against the City of Penticton on Oct. 3.

Two B.C. Supreme Court civil suits were filed against the City of Penticton on Oct. 3, one by a private citizen and the other by a group of local car dealerships.

Penticton Hyundai and Penticton Honda both back onto the wastewater treatment plant, on lots owned by Skaha Ford. They claim the city’s contractor, Penticton Sandblasting and Painting (also named as a defendant) allowed overspray to drift onto the dealerships when they were painting the wastewater treatment plant in April 2015.

Read more: Auto dealers file suit against City of Penticton

As a result, both the vehicles on the lots awaiting sale and the buildings themselves were damaged by the drifting paint spray, resulting in costs for cleaning them up, lost business and loss of good will.

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said he wasn’t aware the problem had been taken to the court system. He and council were aware of it, but thought it was being dealt with by staff.

“This is over a year old. We thought it was being dealt with. It was our contractor who screwed up,” said Jakubeit. “On that case I thought we were just settling it, because at the end of the day, we were at fault.”

Jakubeit added it is the amount of money the car dealerships are seeking that is in negotiation through the lawyers.

The other civil claim launched against the city was by Joseph Daniel Frocklage, who said he sustained severe physical and emotional injuries after his motorized wheelchair fell into pothole while crossing the intersection of Main Street and McDougall Avenue on May 4, 2016.

Frocklage is seeking damages for ongoing pain and suffering from his injuries, as well as loss of capacity to live his daily life.

The city’s response, filed by the Municipal Insurance of B.C., suggests Frocklage’s injuries were the result of his own negligence, failing to keep a proper lookout. It also says the city was following its stated policies regarding maintenance of roadways.

Jakubeit said that is usually a solid defence for a municipality.

“We have fairly stringent policies on maintenance of roadways, paths and parks, those sort of things,” said Jakubeit. “When we do get a complaint, we address it within 24 hours, that is also part of our policy. That usually helps in our defence.”

Jakubeit said the city gets about 100 of these kind of claims every year. About 40 of those get passed on to the MIA by the city’s chief financial officer.

“The rest are frivolous in nature and we will handle them internally,” said Jakubeit. “I think this is sort of just normal. When there is a trip and fall, the first thing is you go after the city. Everyone thinks the city has deep pockets.”

Jakubeit said former CFO Colin Fisher informed him that over the last 2.5 years, only four or five of these claims passed on to the MIA made it before a judge.

“A notice of claim doesn’t mean it goes to court. They will usually settle or find some compromise,” said Jakubeit.