June 13, 2024


Equality opinion

Windsor law firm announces Wheatley explosion class action suit

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Negligence on the part of the local municipality and the province is to blame for a massive explosion that levelled buildings in downtown Wheatley on Aug. 26, a Windsor law firm alleges.


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“We’ve been retained by a number of individuals to commence a class-action lawsuit,” Sharon Strosberg of Strosberg Sasso Sutts LLP told the Star on Tuesday. Since giving notice to the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and the Ontario government on Friday, she said “many, many more people have contacted us.”

Notifying the lawsuit targets is just the first step. The Windsor law firm is known for class-action suits that make news headlines. Strosberg said “the damages continue” so that it’s too early to estimate how much compensation might be sought for those eventually represented in the claim.

The explosion less than two weeks ago came within hours of gas monitoring alarms being triggered and businesses and homes being evacuated. Two buildings were levelled, dozens more were damaged and 20 people were injured, three of them seriously. There had been previous states of emergency declared in June and July after gas monitors in the same area detected harmful hydrogen sulphide levels.


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Emergency personnel block of streets in Wheatley following a large explosion on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021.
Emergency personnel block of streets in Wheatley following a large explosion on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. Photo by TAYLOR CAMPBELL /WINDSOR STAR

Provincial officials, including technical experts, are investigating, but more than 300 residents who tuned in to a virtual town hall on the weekend were told the source of the gas leak is still unknown. Leaky gas wells, some drilled more than a century ago and abandoned, are suspected.

“Insurance typically wouldn’t cover all the losses,” said Strosberg, citing policy deductibles and compensation limits covering residential and commercial properties. Some workplaces don’t have loss-of-business insurance, tenants may have no insurance, and some workers may no longer have a job.

At Saturday’s virtual town hall — which can be viewed on the municipality’s website — Chatham-Kent Fire and Emergency Services Chief Chris Case said gas is currently not being detected in the area of the blast.


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Chatham-Kent CAO Don Shropshire said it was still unknown who will pick up the recovery costs and whether that might include government, insurance or private property owners. “Quite frankly, we don’t know,” he said.

A reception centre at the Wheatley Arena remains open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Evacuees can call 519-351-8573 during office hours and ask to speak to a Wheatley crisis case manager. Residents who need information after hours can call 519-350-2956.

Wheatley, a town of about 3,000 people, is located on Lake Erie east of Leamington.

Among the intended defendants in the Strosberg Sasso Sutts lawsuit are the Chatham-Kent Police Services and Ontario’s Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry. The proposed action seeks compensation for “general damages, lost use of office or residential space, lost income, expenses incurred for alternate accommodation, office space, replacement or cleaning of damaged items, physical and emotional injury, damage to property, relocation and other expenses.”

Wreckage from a gas explosion on Erie St. North in Wheatley is seen on Friday, August 27, 2021.
Wreckage from a gas explosion on Erie St. North in Wheatley is seen on Friday, August 27, 2021. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

The law firm urges those affected by the explosion “to keep track of all of your out of pocket expenses that you incur.”




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