On May 15, 2014, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice released its decision in Thornhill v Highland Fuels. Highland Fuels, the tank installer and fuel oil supplier, was found not negligent in its tank installation and supply of fuel to Thornhill’s aboveground fuel oil storage tank. This is notwithstanding that the tank leaked two years after Highland Fuels installed it and just a few months after Highland Fuels refilled it. The Court found that Highland Fuels installed the tank in accordance with statutory requirements. The Court found there was no breach of the standard of care by the tank installer. The Court determined that the requisite standard of care for the installation of a fuel oil tank is established through reference to the Technical Standards and Safety Act, its associated Ontario Regulation 213/01 and the Installation Code for Oil-Burning Equipment (CAN/CSA B139). The Court commented extensively on Thornhill’s damages claim. The Court highlighted the difficulty that environmental contractors often face in estimating remediation costs at the outset of a clean up and the too-often-seen situation where actual remedial costs have no resemblance to initial estimates.
Most interesting is the Court’s finding that “...the EPA creates a statutory obligation to remediate, in the circumstances of this case and in the absence of evidence of prior spills, to a non-detect basis”.
On June 12, 2014, the homeowners filed their Notice of Appeal.
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