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Class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of St. James Town residents displaced by fire

Class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of St. James Town residents displaced by fire
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A class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of residents displaced from a St. James Town property after a six-alarm fire last month.

Lawyers from Landy Marr Kats LLP, acting on behalf of displaced residents from 650 Parliament St., filed the lawsuit on Sept. 14 in Ontario Superior Court and are seeking a $50 million compensation in damages.

In their statement of claim, they accuse the defendants — four property owners, the property management and Toronto Hydro — of negligence, breach of contract and breach of the Residential Tenancies Act, among other things.

More than 1,500 residents of the building near Parliament and Wellesley Sts. were forced out of their units when a fire broke out in the afternoon of Aug. 21. Toronto Fire officials have said the incident was caused by a major electrical failure, and investigations are ongoing.

City officials and the Red Cross scrambled to find temporary housing for the displaced people, and have encouraged them to seek out their own housing arrangements as repairs could take up to four months. Nearly 200 of the residents are currently sheltered inside the Regent Park Community Centre, which has since closed to the public.

As of Monday afternoon, no statement of defence had been filed at the court. Defendants have 40 days from the day a lawsuit is served to file a defence.

Regent Park programs left in lurch as community centre used to shelter displaced residents

A spokesperson for Toronto Hydro said the company does not comment on matters that are before the court.

The Star sent detailed requests for comment on the allegations to the other defendants — Bleeman Holdings Limited, 650 Parliament Residences Inc., 650 Parliament (LHB) Investments Limited, Parwell Investments Inc., and Wellesley/Parliament Square Limited — but did not receive a response.

The lawsuit names the plaintiff as Yulia Tomash, a single mother who lived with a young child and a cat in a one-bedroom unit for which she paid $1,300 a month. She is described in the lawsuit as representative of all the people who were residents, tenants or visitors of 650 Parliament St. at the time of the fire.

The statement of claim alleges residents suffered “burns, smoke inhalation, mental distress, and other medical issues” in the aftermath of the fire.

The claim also alleges apartments were burglarized due to lack of security, stating Tomash returned to her unit after the fire and found her apartment “ransacked,” and $5,000 in cash missing.

The claim states the displaced residents have incurred additional unintended living expenses in terms of food, clothing, moving and alternate housing among others. Many have been unable to return to work, the claim says.

It also alleges residents have sustained aggravated mental and psychological damages in the aftermath of the fire.

“We want people to keep their receipts and contact us so that we can keep track of who is who and who had a loss and what type of loss,” said Vadim Kats, one of the lawyers who launched the class action.

He said the certification of the class action has not yet been secured, adding that process could take months.

The group has been posting notices in community newspapers in various languages, asking those affected by last month’s fire to get in touch.

Earlier this month, two other law firms — Strosberg Sasso Sutts LLP and Charney Lawyers — announced plans for a class-action lawsuit seeking compensation for the residents of 650 Parliament St. The firms filed a notice of action but have yet to file a statement of claim.
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