Snow plower’s suit against Chelsea dismissed
By Hunter Cresswell
A judge dismissed Chelsea resident and former municipal snow plower Marc Meunier’s $423,000 defamation lawsuit against the municipality of Chelsea last month.
Meunier didn’t return a request for comment before the publishing deadline.
According to court records, Gatineau Superior Court Judge Catherine Mandeville’s July 9 ruling brought to a close a case that has been ongoing since early 2015. The case pitted Meunier, who is a lifelong Chelsea resident and had been plowing roads for the municipality for about 20 years, against the municipality, Mayor Caryl Green, municipal staffers Luc Dion – who is still listed as a public works employee on the municipal website – and former public works director Paola Zurro. This newspaper was a third party named in the case due to a story about the issue by former reporter Tess Allen printed on Feb. 17, 2016.
To sum the dispute up using court documents and archived Low Down stories on the subject — Meunier was attempting to sue Chelsea, the mayor, and staffers for $423,000 over alleged attacks on his reputation following the 2015-16 winter, which were printed in this newspaper.
That season, Meunier used crushed-up, black shale rock that had been excavated from a high-rise building site in Ottawa as an abrasive to increase tire traction on slick winter roads.
“The particularity of this stone, as opposed to the one that Meunier had bought throughout the previous years, was that its colour was quite dark, almost black,” the case file states.
According to the court file, Meunier said that Dion had approved the stockpile of the alternate abrasive during a site visit, but Dion testified that it was only a “courtesy visit.”
In early 2016, shortly after the new abrasive started being spread, people started calling the municipality with complaints about a black, sticky substance on roads.
“The complaints also concerned the fact that this abrasive, once mixed up with snow, became somewhat of a muddy material, which was dark, sticky and oily. Constituents mentioned it soiled their homes, their boots, their cars and even the fur of their pets,” the court file states.
People also expressed concern over the substance harming the environment and their pets. Green was quoted in two of Allen’s articles for The Low Down, cited in the court file.
“Meunier’s claim for damages to his reputation is based on these statements attributed to the mayor of Chelsea in The Low Down,” the file states.
He claimed he lost about 70 per cent of his private snow removal and road maintenance contracts in Chelsea, and his chances for getting the next municipal snow plowing contract were “completely ruined.”
“Further, Meunier has not proven that he would have lost private snow plowing contracts because of any defamatory comments made by the defendants nor the contract for services to Chelsea for 2016-2017. Meunier has not mitigated its damages, if any, having simply decided to cease operations and sell the equipment and not to bid for the 2015-2017 tender,” the file, stating the defendants’ position, states.
In the end, the judge dismissed the case with judicial costs.
“The plaintiffs have failed to satisfy their burden of proving that their loss of business and the decision to sell the equipment and cease their operations were the results of any fault committed by any of the defendants,” the file states.