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City reveals it faces 14 lawsuits

A court action launched by the family of a young friend of Isabel Warren who was in a south end washroom during a fatal incident in June 2009 is one of 14 lawsuits the city is currently facing.

An updated list of lawsuits normally goes to city council behind closed doors twice a year, but the list is being been made public for the first time, says city solicitor Donna Jaques. And, she says, the city plans to keep making them public from now on.

“It is to bring more accountability and transparency to the process,” she said Friday.

“These are litigation files, so they are in the public domain” at local court offices, Jaques said in an interview. “There is nothing particularly secret about the fact of these lawsuits,” so it’s “appropriate” for the list to be made public, she said.

The litigation list was released Thursday by city hall as part of an agenda for yesterday’s meeting of council’s corporate administration, finance and emergency services committee.

Jaques said litigation lists now will be considered in the public portion of meetings of this committee. If any questions are raised by councillors that should be discussed behind closed doors, they will be, she said.

The city announced in January that a $2.8-million lawsuit, filed by the family of Isabel Warren in connection with her death after a public washroom wall collapsed on her in 2009, had been settled.

However, the details of the Isabel Warren settlement will never be made public, said Mark Amorosi, the city’s executive director of human resources and legal services.

It hadn’t been publicly known until Thursday, when city hall released the agenda, that a lawsuit has also been filed by the family of a young female friend of Isabel Warren who was also in the washroom when the wall collapsed. The report refers to “the Debono family” as having filed this lawsuit.

Like the original Warren family lawsuit, the court action launched by the Debono family was filed against the city and other parties connected with designing or building the community park washroom behind Bishop Macdonell high school where the Grade 9 student died.

The Debono lawsuit, filed Dec. 3 by the friend’s family, is “being handled by the city’s insurers,” says the staff report which lists the lawsuits that the city currently faces. The report doesn’t say how much the Debono family is claiming.

The report outlines 15 lawsuits, with one of them – the Warren family’s suit – marked as having been settled recently. Also listed in the report are 11 Ontario Municipal Board cases involving the city, as well as one Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario case.

Aside from the Warren and Debono family lawsuits, the report lists these 13 court actions (with the oldest ones listed first):

• two suits that were launched in 1999 against the city by a construction company related to property at the southwest corner of Downey Road and the Hanlon Expressway. These matters are “not currently being pursued,” the report says

• a suit launched in March 2008 by two descendants of Guelph native son John McCrae, including Geills McCrae Turner, the wife of former Canadian prime minister John Turner. They claim ownership of several McCrae medals donated to the city in 1997 and 2005, and they seek possession of the medals.

The medals are on display at the McCrae House museum. This lawsuit is listed as “ongoing.”

• a $12.1-million lawsuit launched against the city in October 2008 by Urbacon Buildings Group Corp., the general contractor for the new city hall that was fired by the city. The city made a $5- million counterclaim against Urbacon and also filed a $5-million suit against Aviva Insurance Company of Canada, which its says had obligations under the city hall project’s performance bond. The report says the next “case management supervision hearing” in the Urbacon case is set for this April, and the Aviva case is “following along” with the Urbacon case.

• an appeal to the courts by a woman against a Property Standards Committee decision related to structural repairs to a pool on Terrace Lane.

Staff are reviewing a recent court ruling in this case, the report says.

• a $5-million statement of claim launched by the city against some protesters who occupied a construction site at the Hanlon Creek Business Park in the summer of 2009. This claim is related to an injunction obtained by the city to end the occupation. “Pleadings have been served and filed by both parties,” the report says of the status of this case.

• a total of $375,000 in damages and “aggravated” damages claimed in a lawsuit launched against the city by Wyndham Corporate Centre Inc.

The suit relates to “the alleged failure of the city to remove carpets from the property at 2 Wyndham St.” after the city’s lease ended there and its staff moved to the new city hall. This suit was launched in September 2009. The city currently is awaiting the company’s response to the city’s statement of defence, the report says.

• a $4-million suit launched against the city in October 2009 by the County of Wellington in a dispute over funding for the Wellington Terrace long-term care facility near Fergus. The city is waiting for the county’s response to a statement of defence and counterclaim that it filed last May, the report says.

• a $2-million claim brought against the city in February 2010 by 14 builders and developers relate to development charges. This case is listed as ongoing.

• two construction liens related to the emergency services facility that’s to open on Clair Road this year. In one of the cases, the report says the city is waiting for a response to a statement of defence and a cross-claim. In the other case, the city “is not currently an active party” to the matter, the report says.

• a claim by an excavating company against the city related to work done on Zaduk Place. The city’s statement of defence in this case is to be filed this month, the report says.

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