(Judgment Day profiles business-related Alberta court decisions.)
Four Airdrie-area land- owners who had hoped to stop airport development near their homes were recently denied their petition by the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary.
Landowners Faron Taylor, Bernie Biever, Mike Marshall and Archie Bushfield, owned properties adjacent to Airdrie Airport, and filed a petition to the court claiming development by Airdrie Airpark Ltd. (AAL) had not been properly approved by the Municipal District (MD) of Rockyview.
AAL purchased the land in question in 1997, registered it as “aerodrome” land, and zoned it as an airport district. In 1999, AAL submitted a plan to the MD to build a new runway, taxiway and to subdivide lots for development of aviation-related users and businesses. However, the MD refused permission because it was federal jurisdiction. So AAL obtained approval from Transport Canada and registered the plan with the registrar (South Alberta Land Registration District) in June 2001.
In December 2002, having already invested more than $2 million in the subdivision process, AAL was served with a petition from the four adjacent landowners, claiming the development was not properly registered.
The court found that determining jurisdiction would depend on whether or not the subdivision was an “essential, integral or vital aspect of the operation of the airport.” Federal rules apply to essential operations. Municipalities or provincial planners have jurisdiction in non-essential improvements.
In this case, part of the plan was for essential operations (runway and taxiway,) and since the court did not have permission to consider the plan in pieces, it ruled that as a whole, the development was for essential development. As such, the plan was deemed properly registered and development is allowed to continue.
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. But in this case, failure to produce pictures and video could cost an Edmonton grocery store owner thousands of dollars.
Rudolf Pfeifer, 85, slipped and fell in the produce department of an Edmonton Superstore, and needed surgery plus an extended hospital stay to mend his broken leg.
In a trial held April 2003, the Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton awarded Pfeifer about $28,000 in damages, finding Westfair Foods Ltd., the owner and operator of Superstore, 75 per cent responsible for Pfeifer’s injuries. The Alberta government was also refunded Pfeifer’s hospitalization costs.
A new trial, heard in September 2003, addressed a claim by Pfeifer’s counsel to increase costs awarded to their client. Typical court costs are calculated based on the value of the claim. Essentially, the higher the claim, the higher the costs associated. Court of Queen’s Bench Judge M.B. Bielby agreed that, even though the individual claims for Pfeifer and the Alberta government were under the $50,000 threshold for costs, she would consider them together, hence bumping them to a higher cost rate.
But she didn’t stop there; Judge Bielby found reason to grant Pfeifer even more. Evidence showed that Westfair failed to produce a complete surveillance video of the produce area around the time of the accident, in spite of a court order to do so. In addition, Westfair had taken photographs shortly after the accident, but refused to produce them before the trial, so the judge barred their admission as evidence. By failing to produce the video and photos, the judgement says Westfair showed carelessness, and might have allowed the matter to be settled without coming to trial.
As a result, costs will be calculated as if the claim were for $150,000-$500,000; an increase that could work out to several extra thousand dollars against Westfair.