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Evacuated residents launch class action lawsuit against UBC, City of Kelowna

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Hadgraft Wilson Place residents
Residents of Hadgraft Wilson Place evacuating on April 2. (Brittany Webster/Capital News)

A class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Hadgraft Wilson Place residents and select business owners against UBC Properties Trust, the City of Kelowna, and at least 15 others over the construction of the UBC Okanagan Development in downtown Kelowna.

Residents of the low-income apartments were displaced on April 2, after a planned evacuation of the building was ordered by the city’s fire chief as neighbouring construction caused ground shifting and visible cracks at the Hadgraft Wilson Place.

The civil suit was filed on May 3, in B.C. Supreme Court.

“A class action provides access to justice to those affected by these events, many of whom live on limited income, have disabilities, or are small business owners and not-for-profit organizations,” said Polina H. Furtula, counsel for the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit alleges the UBCO 43-storey development is not suitable for the geotechnical conditions of the area.

It is stated in the claim that as early as July 2023, two months after breaking ground on the project, those involved with the UBCO Development in downtown Kelowna were informed the construction was causing structural issues of several other area buildings.

“However, they (the defendants) failed to stop construction and excavation activities on the Lands or warn the plaintiffs and Class members of the resultant damage and the dangerous conditions to the surrounding properties,” stated the claim.

Then in November, businesses operating in the CoLab building were told to evacuate due to “structural and other damage caused by the excavation and construction.”

Two days later the city issued a stop work order. However, the civil claim alleges that the city was aware several months prior, “that work was being conducted by the other defendants, or each of them, at the CoLab building without a permit, but (the city) failed to issue a stop work order.”

On Jan.2, 2024, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26 located at 1380 Bertram Street, was evacuated “due to the excavation and construction activities on the UBCO downtown campus.”

The lawsuit alleges negligence on the behalf of the developers, architects, geotechnical consultants, structural consultants, general contractors, and the City of Kelowna, stating they all had, “a duty to take reasonable care” and a duty “to warn that the excavation and construction of the UBCO Development on the Lands would give rise to the resultant damage and the dangerous conditions to the surrounding properties.”

According to Furtula, the plaintiffs are looking to cover lost income, costs and expenses for storage, food, shelter, pet care, clothing and furniture that the residents would otherwise not have incurred, and seek to recover damages for personal injury, such as depression and anxiety, stress, high blood pressure and others.

READ MORE: Call for UBC Properties Trust to cease downtown Kelowna construction

Residents of Hadgraft Wilson Place are currently living in new dorms built by Okanagan College after being moved from hotel to hotel for a month. The tenants continue to pay Pathways Abilities Society their monthly rent in exchange for assistance while evacuated.

None of the accusations have been proven in court and there has yet to be a response filed to the civil claim.

Black Press Media has reached out to UBCO, UBC Properties Trust, and the City of Kelowna for comment.

READ MORE: ‘We’re fighting for Jim’: Namesake, resident of evacuated Kelowna apartment dies

Brittany Webster

About the Author: Brittany Webster

I am a video journalist based in Kelowna and capturing life in the Okanagan
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