Federal Court OK’s Scademia lawsuit

Adventure Tours suing St. John’s Port Authority for $10M

Published on July 5, 2014
The tour schooner Scademia,which was refused a berth by the St. John’s Port Authority in 2006, shown docked in St. John’s harbour in a file photo. The schooner had  formerly operated from the harbour since 1986. The schooner’s owner, Adventure Tours Inc. has filed a lawsuit against the port authority. — Telegram file photo

The St. John’s Port Authority’s (SJPA) efforts to dismiss a $10-million lawsuit filed by the owner of the Scademia schooner have failed.

The Federal Court of Appeal upheld two previous Federal Court decisions granting Adventure Tours Inc. the right to proceed with a lawsuit filed in March 2012.

The company could not secure a lease to dock at Pier 7 in 2006 after SJPA introduced a new policy limiting the number of tour boat operators permitted to dock there. SJPA was already at capacity.

Adventure Tours terminated its lease the year before, but contends it informed SJPA it wished to retain a renewal right for the following season.

Attempts to obtain a lease at Pier 7 in subsequent years were unsuccessful. Up until then, the Scademia had been a fixture of St. John’s harbour since 1986.

An initial statement of claim was filed in February 2008. Although a Federal Court of Appeal decision three years later struck down the lawsuit, the court did not outright dismiss it. Instead, the decision granted Adventure Tours the right to file a new statement of claim.

Claim filed again in 2012

That new claim was filed a few months later in March 2012. Since then, SJPA has made three attempts to strike down that claim in its entirety and leave no options for amending it.

All three attempts, including the latest one the Federal Court of Appeal issued its decision for on June 26, 2014, have failed.

In the latest ruling, three judges with the Appeal Court backed Chief Justice Paul Crampton’s decision to dismiss SJPA’s appeal of Prothonotary Richard Morneau’s order.

In the Federal Court matter heard by Moreau in the spring of 2012, SJPA argued the incidents cited in the lawsuit happened before March 2010, leaving it too late for Adventure Tours to file a new claim. It also claimed that waiting until nine months after the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision from 2011 to file a new statement of claim amounted to a delay of proceedings and that repeated litigation attempts were equivalent to an abuse of process.

Disagreed with port authority

Morneau disagreed with SJPA on all matters. He noted the Federal Court of Appeal did not dismiss the action itself and that even with a new file number attached, it was still connected to the action at the heart of the original 2008 lawsuit.

As for the abuse of process allegation, Morneau said the Appeal Court did not specify a deadline for filing an amended claim and that it was unclear whether a nine-month delay can be consider excessive or too long. He also noted the other legal process involving the two parties was a completely different matter.

Crampton later ruled in November 2012 that Morneau’s decision and supporting analysis were not clearly wrong as SJPA had contended. He agreed Adventure Tours’ filed action did not cease to exist from the moment the Appeal Court struck down the original lawsuit.

In last month’s decision, the Appeal Court only considered the limitations issue.

“SJPA acknowledged before us that this court never dismissed (Adventure Tours’) action as a result of that appeal (in 2011),” read the decision prepared by Judge Johanne Gauthier. “In this context, whether or not the fresh statement of claim is a continuation of the action commenced in February 2008 and thus benefits from the interruption of the limitation period is in our view not plain and obvious.”