Lawsuit dismissed against City of Pitt Meadows

Provincial court judge Thomas Woods found that William Norton failed to prove dike improvements damaged his septic tank.

A man who sued the City of Pitt Meadows for a drainage problem on his property had his lawsuit dismissed last week.

Provincial court judge Thomas Woods found that William Norton, who owns High Country Outfitters, failed to prove the municipality’s improvements to a dike in 2007 increased the flow of water onto his McQuarrie Road property to the point where it damaged his septic tank.

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

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 testified, somewhat speculatively, that the septic system was only six years old at the time of its failure. However, there is no record of any new septic system installation or system upgrade having been performed at the McQuarrie Road Property since 1985.

Norton submitted no evidence to back his claim, nor did he question the records kept by the city.

“The evidence that I have accepted has persuaded me that … the raising of the dike was a non-event,” said Woods.

“Seepage is minimal to begin with and the improvements did not affect it in any way.”

Woods noted that High Country Outfitters and Norton did several things that may have altered the drainage patterns on the property.

Some of them improved drainage.

But other improvements –  such as paving of large driveway surfaces that were previously absorptive – may have had unintended, undesirable effects.

The trial of Norton’s claims against the city took six days to be heard.

Judge Woods noted he took a somewhat relaxed approach to the rules of evidence and the question of relevance because Norton was trying to prove his claim without a lawyer.

Woods also acknowledged Norton’s skill and effort to prove his claim.

“While untrained in the ways of the law, Mr. Norton devoted much energy and industry to advancing his company’s claims against the city,” said Woods.

“He had his struggles with the intricacies of trial procedure and the substantive law, to be sure, but often he showed skill in advocacy that goes beyond what one ordinarily expects to see in a layman.”

Woods denied the city’s request to impose a penalty against High Country Outfitters requiring that the business to pay an amount up to 10 per cent of the value of its claim –  an amount up to $2,422.

He invited the city and Norton to discuss what constitute the city’s “reasonable expenses.” If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, Woods agreed to hear submissions and make the decision for them.

18681 McQuarrie Road is listed for sale at $1.2 million.

• Read the reasons for judgment.

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