News

No deal yet in Pitt drainage suit

William Norton is worried about water seeping onto his property from the Pitt River, on the other side of the dike behind his house. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
William Norton is worried about water seeping onto his property from the Pitt River, on the other side of the dike behind his house.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

A man who lost a lawsuit against Pitt Meadows for a drainage problem on his property has been unable to reach a settlement with the city.

William Norton and the city’s lawyers can’t agree on what constitutes “reasonable expenses.”

Since they are unable to reach an agreement, provincial court judge Thomas Woods will have to make the decision for them.

The city wants Norton to cover court costs up to $11,000, a large chunk of which is an engineering report. Norton has agreed to pay for half of the engineering report, which amounts to around $4,000, but also wants the engineers, who designed and constructed the dike, to sign a “comfort letter” that states: the construction of the McQuarrie Road ramp and dike conform to accepted engineering practice and provincial standards “specifically the removal of internal runoff and seepage water to protect the necessary infrastructure and private property.”

The city is refusing to sign the letter, hence the stalemate.

“I don’t understand why they won’t sign it,” said Norton, noting his request isn’t unusual since all city dikes must comply with provincial standards.

Norton sued the city for $24,000 – the cost of replacing and installing a new septic tank. He represented himself in court.

Norton, who owns High Country Outfitters, lost the lawsuit because he failed to prove the municipality’s improvements to a dike in 2007 increased the flow of water onto his McQuarrie Rd. property, to the point where it damaged his septic tank.

The dike improvements were done in preparation for an unusually high spring freshet in 2007 that came with the threat of a flood.

Judge Woods found Norton’s claims floundered because he failed to establish adequate proof of a link between the city’s dike improvements and the failure of the septic tank that the court found was at least 23 years old.

Norton said he needs the city engineer to sign off on its dike improvements in order to sell his property, located at 18681 McQuarrie Road.

It was listed for sale at $1.2 million in September.

Any potential buyer would want the assurance that the dike isn’t causing drainage problems on his property.

“Without signing off on it, I don’t think the engineering work is worth the paper it’s writing on,” said Norton.

He also wonders why the city has spent so much money fighting the small claims suit. Norton noted the city hired ISL Engineering and a hydrologist, in addition to lawyers.

In B.C., Small Claims Court is the place people go to settle legal disputes for civil cases worth less than $25,000.

The city, though, believes it was necessary to protect its taxpayers.

“With any claim, whether it comes as a law suit or a simple request to pay for damaged property, the key factor is whether the city is liable for the damage,”said Pitt Meadows director of finance Dean Rear.

“It is important for any public entity providing stewardship of taxpayer resources to ensure that it doesn’t accept responsibility when it is not liable. In this case, the city and its insurers clearly felt it was not liable and needed to defend itself. It was accepted by the court that the dike had no effect on the drainage of the property.”

Rear could not say exactly how much has been spent on legal fees thus far, but the deducible for the city’s liability insurance policy is $10,000, and he confirmed that has been expended by the city.

Norton and the city are set to appear in front of Judge Woods in December.

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