In the Oscar-nominated Disney-Pixar feature Cars, the
fictional town of Radiator Springs, formerly a popular stopover
spot along U.S. Route 66, was financially devastated by the
construction of Interstate 40 which bypassed the town. The Supreme
Court of Canada considered a case with eerily similar facts. In
Antrim Truck Centre Ltd. v. Ontario (Transportation), 2013
SCC 13, the Province of Ontario (the
"Province") created an extension of a
section of Highway 417. The extension crippled the appellant's
truck stop business as it rendered Highway 17 obsolete. The truck
stop owner sought damages for injurious affection, which may be
sought even where no land is expropriated but where "the
lawful activities of a statutory authority on one piece of land
interfere with the use or enjoyment of another property."
Justice Cromwell held that the truck stop was entitled to
damages for injurious affection. He found that all three statutory
requirements to recover damages for injurious affection under the
Expropriations Act were met: (i) the damage resulted from
action taken under statutory authority; (ii) the action would give
rise to liability but for the statutory authority; and, (iii) the
damage resulted from the construction and not use of the works. The
second requirement, which was the only one in dispute, was met
because the truck stop owner would have been entitled to damages
for private nuisance. Private nuisance can be established if the
interference with one's property is substantial and
unreasonable and could not reasonably be expected to be borne by
the owner without compensation. Whether the nature of the
defendant's conduct is unreasonable is irrelevant to the
It would appear on the surface that, just as every fairy tale
ends, the residents of Radiator Springs as well as the truck stop
owner on Highway 17 lived happily ever after. However, this case
may have negative consequences on future infrastructure projects.
When considering whether to undertake necessary infrastructure
projects, the Province as well as municipalities may be forced to
delay or scrap the projects altogether for fear of injurious
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Russell v. Township of Georgian Bay provides a useful reminder of the fact that while municipal officials sometimes appear to hold all of the cards in disputes with home owners, that is not always the case.
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