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A recent Ontario case is a discouraging reminder of how little is the compensation available for even deliberate and serious nuisance, and how rarely it pays for homeowners to sue. In Ivall v. Aguiar, the plaintiffs bought a small rural house as their “dream home”. Unfortunately, due to changes in terrain caused by their neighbours, the property flooded frequently. 18 months after they moved in, the flooding was so massive that it contaminated their drinking water well for a year. The neighbours could have prevented or remedied the flooding, but flatly refused to do so. “It was a continuing cruelty by the defendants to be so casual with the nightmare they had created for their neighbours”.

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The Ivalls suffered anxiety, fear and profound inconvenience. Their water was so dangerously contaminated that they couldn’t use their bathtub, shower, toilet, washing machine or sinks. They had to lug bottled water for a year. They needed medical attention for anxiety. Yet, despite all of this, they didn’t get much from having sued. The judge awarded them $14,600 for their out of pocket expenses, and $5000 each (total $15,000) for the “nightmare”. They also got $7500, less than half of their legal expenses, from the defendants, but there will be very little (if anything) of the $15,000 left after they pay their lawyer.

One has to wonder, was the lawsuit worth it for them?

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