Businesses affected by crane collapse seek to launch class-action lawsuit

Several businesses impacted by the collapse of a crane in downtown Halifax last month are seeking legal action to recover lost sales.

The businesses have started a proposed class action against WM Fares Architects Inc. and WM Fares & Associates Incorporated, the developer of the building that was under construction when the crane toppled.

The statement of claim, filed Friday, also names Lead Structural Formwork Ltd. — the owner, operator and installer of the crane — and the Manitowoc Company, the designer, producer and fabricator of the crane.

Ray Wagner, the lawyer representing the class, said the crane’s collapse has had a grave impact on businesses in the area.

“These small businesses are looking for stability and looking for compensation to address the losses that they’re incurring and continue to incur,” he said.

The crane collapsed Sept. 7 after Dorian landed as a post-tropical storm with hurricane-strength winds.

The statement of claim alleged that the defendants failed to use reasonable care in the production, fabrication, installation, operation, maintenance, and use of the crane.

It also said the defendants didn’t take reasonable steps to avoid injury, loss, and damage to the surrounding residences and businesses by failing to take “adequate precautions” when warned in advance about adverse weather conditions.

Thornbloom, a home décor and furniture store on South Park Street, is the proposed representative plaintiff in the potential class action, but Wagner said he’s been in contact with four or five other businesses and expects more to participate.

According to the statement of claim, Thornbloom has been closed since the day Dorian hit.

“This is having a devastating impact on us,” said owners Debbie Morgan and Elaine Shortt in a statement. “We simply can’t operate without customers having access to our store.”

WM Fares will defend ‘vigorously’

Gavin Giles, a partner at McInnes Cooper and a lawyer acting on behalf of WM Fares, said the company intends to “defend vigorously” against the allegations made in the statement of claim.

“This comes as, in a couple of words, a pretty big surprise,” he said.

Very shortly after the crane collapse, Giles said WM Fares reached out to its commercial tenants affected in the area — including Thornbloom — and said that it would not charge them rent “until the dust settles.”

“None of those people have come back to WM Fares to say they want more, they need more, they have any particular claims that they wish to advance,” he said.

Giles also said lost customer traffic and lost sales as a result of the collapse have not been proved.

“And even if it proved, as it remains to be seen, that doesn’t mean WM Fares is in any way responsible for it,” he said.

He added that in the six weeks since the crane collapse, the company has made more than $100,000 in payments to people and entities affected by the crane collapse, mainly to the displaced residents, with no legal obligation to do so.

The defendants have 15 days to respond to the proposed action.

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