Waterway Houseboats wins $2 million for damages caused in 2012 flood

Houseboat company wins lawsuit involving Province of British Columbia, District of Sicamous

The B.C. Supreme Court has ruled the Province of British Columbia and the District of Sicamous are liable for damages caused to Waterway Houseboats’ Mara Lake property when Sicamous Creek burst its banks in 2012.

Waterway is to receive more than $2 million as a result of the April 16 judgment.

According to the suit filed by Waterway, Vinco Holdings which own’s the 2 Mile property the houseboat company property operates on, and a group of individual houseboat owners, remediation work after flooding in 1997 contributed to serious damage to their property and loss of income in 2012.

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The judgment, delivered by Justice Gary Weatherill in a Kelowna courtroom, states that days of intense rainfall in June 2012 combined with snowmelt in the Sicamous Creek watershed to create a debris flood. The key issue at play in the case was whether a blockage under a private bridge over the creek could have been prevented when the bridge was replaced and the creek was dredged after the 1997 flooding.

The plaintiffs alleged that when a truck had fallen into the creek during the 2012 flooding and became lodged under a bridge, it created a blockage which led the creek to escape its channel, damaging the Waterway property. The bridge led to private property owned by Alberta residents Bryan and Constance McLaughlin, who are listed as defendants in the suit alongside the province and the district.

The plaintiffs say that had the channel restoration and McLaughlin Bridge replacement been properly designed and constructed, the truck would have passed underneath the bridge, and the blockage and resulting flood would not have occurred.

The defendants claimed the 2012 flood was so massive that it would have overwhelmed the creek channel regardless of other circumstances.

Justice Weatherill’s decision states that had the blockage at the bridge not occurred, the creek would have continued to flush the majority of its flow into Mara Lake.

The court found that both the McLaughlins and the district fell short of compliance with conditions as approval holders over the bridge replacement and creek bed remediation projects. The province was also found liable for breaching their duty of care to the plaintiffs in issuing permits for the bridge replacement.

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Waterway Houseboats and Vinco Holdings were awarded damages for economic loss in the amount of $887,299 and special damages in the amount of $1,166,850.

Court documents state each of the defendants will have to pay $684,716 to Vinco and Waterway.

The individual houseboat owners were awarded damages for lost profits in the amount of $312,997.

Waterway Houseboats’ chief operating officer Neil Millar said they are happy with the judge’s decision, but not necessarily with the amount of damages that are being awarded.

“We sued for, I think it was $10 million. There was a reason for that, it wasn’t pie-in-the-sky stuff; none of this is punitive or anything like that. It’s simply just that’s what it cost us with everything,”

Millar said he is also pleased that the judge recognized the extraordinary effort Waterway’s staff put in to get back in business three weeks after the flood.

“We’re grateful for our customers who believed in us after the flood and have come back year after year for great houseboat vacations.”

Sicamous’ Mayor Terry Rysz said it is important the public realize that Sicamous is covered under the municipal insurance association of B.C.

“That’s the ruling and that’s the responsibility when proper procedure and process isn’t followed,” said Rysz.

“Sometimes we get criticized for not being open for business and not being accommodating at town hall, but this a prime example of what can take place when it comes to liability. This is a lesson learned for all of us I think.”


@SalmonArm
jim.elliot@saobserver.net

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