A former resident of an Edmonton, Alberta condo building is attempting to file a class-action lawsuit against the owner and manager of the building following an outbreak of bedbugs and cockroaches. However, during a recent visit to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, the plaintiff ran into some hurdles in attempting to discover exactly who else may have been exposed to the alleged infestation. The court’s decision highlights the balance of privacy concerns with the need for information to proceed with a class-action lawsuit.
Tenant in condo says he was exposed to bedbugs and cockroaches
The plaintiff leased a unit in the condo from 2015 to 2016. During this time the plaintiff stated that an infestation of bedbugs and cockroaches made his unit as well as others in the building impossible to live in. The plaintiff plans to register a class action suit against the owner and manager of the condo and has commenced his action under the Class Proceedings Act. He is seeking damages for bites he said left him unable to work.
The plaintiff had managed to track down some information about how the defendants mitigated the problem, but he says the information he received is incomplete. As a result, the plaintiff is seeking the names of people who were living in the building as tenants in the units that were treated for bedbugs from 2015 to 2016. He also wanted information related to markings on the invoices the management company received from the pest control company.
The defendants argued that they are not required to produce the information about the tenants due to privacy concerns and questions about the relevancy of that information during this stage of the proceedings.
Court attempts to balance interests
The court noted that class proceedings are complicated and it can be difficult for plaintiffs to gather the information needed to make an application for certification with supporting materials. However, the court also said that intervention by the court for discovery purposes should be “narrowly directed and sparingly employed since it serves to interfere with what would otherwise be the normal rights of the parties, and others, to conduct their affairs as they see fit.”
The court also agreed with the defendant that it is not up to the defendant to do the plaintiff’s work for them. The court said that the identities of the other tenants in the building are not relevant to the plaintiff’s claim, and will only become relevant upon the certification of a class-action lawsuit. While tenants often make their address known (for motor vehicle registry, mail, or even identification at the entry to the building), and the privacy expectations are low, it has not been demonstrated that the plaintiff needs the identities of people who were renting units. Instead, the court suggested the plaintiff use publicly available information to determine which units were owned at the time. In addition, the court also ordered that the defendant provide the plaintiff with information as to which units were occupied at the time, but not the names of the people occupying them. This would presumably allow the plaintiff to try to track down who owned each unit, and whether it was rented out.
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