Quebec reaches deal to compensate motorists trapped on highway in 2017 storm

MONTREAL — People who were trapped for hours on a Montreal highway following a massive 2017 snowstorm will each receive up to $1,375 from the province, lawyers for the stranded motorists announced Thursday.

The payments result from a partial settlement of a class action lawsuit against the Quebec government and the city of Montreal. The lawsuit had been authorized by the Quebec Superior Court and will continue against the city, which so far has refused to negotiate, according to the motorists' lawyers.

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A storm that began on the evening of March 14, 2017, dropped more than 35 centimetres of snow on the city overnight, stranding hundreds of motorists on Highway 13, some of whom had to stay in their cars until the morning. The government later acknowledged that emergency services were badly managed that night.

Marc-Antoine Cloutier, the lead lawyer representing plaintiffs, said his clients were traumatized.

"People cry when they talk about their night," he told reporters. "Many people spoke about a significant trauma. I'm still stunned that people who appear very strong cry when they talk about their night of March 14-15."

Cloutier said the agreement recognizes that provincial authorities have since fixed their emergency services operations.

Under the terms of the agreement, people who were trapped in their cars for four hours or less will receive $350 from the provincial government. The payments increase according to the amount of time people were stuck, rising to $1,100 for drivers and passengers who spent 10 hours or more in their vehicles.

Children aged under 12, seniors over 75, pregnant women and people with medical conditions will receive bonuses worth 25 per cent of the payment, for a maximum of $1,375 per plaintiff.

Cloutier said plaintiffs could be in line for more money depending on the outcome of the suit against the city.

Roughly 2,500 people have so far registered to take part in the class action. The agreement with the Quebec government needs to be authorized by the Superior Court before plaintiffs can be compensated.

Gabrielle Gagne, part of the plaintiffs' legal team, said people who wish to collect money will need to show evidence they were stuck in their cars.

"You can use pictures, you can use text messages, email, videos," she said. "A lot of people have smartphones and have all of that already with them, so it could be fairly easy to prove."

© The Outlook

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