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Westin hotel parent sues city, RTG over alleged sinkhole damages


People mill about after the evacuation of the Shaw Centre, Rideau Centre and Westin Ottawa Hotel after a large sinkhole formed on Rideau Street on June 8, 2016.
Justin Tang / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The City of Ottawa and Rideau Transit Group owe at least $100,000 to the company that runs The Westin Ottawa hotel because of damages related to the massive sinkhole almost one year ago, a lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit, filed this week by the U.S.-based Starwood Capital Group, describes how the busy hotel had to be evacuated on June 8, 2016 after receiving an order from the RCMP, forcing the cancellation of events booked in the facility.

On that morning, a chunk of Rideau Street just east of Sussex Drive opened up without warning, swallowing a van that was parked on the side of the road and exposing a broken watermain that spewed water into the gaping hole.

No one was reported injured, but nearby businesses, including the hotel and the attached Rideau Centre, had to be evacuated while engineers made sure people could safely return to the buildings.

According to Starwood’s lawsuit, the Westin hotel on Colonel By Drive had a 98-per-cent occupancy when the sinkhole happened.

The evacuation order ended in the late afternoon, but the hotel still had problems with the water and natural gas supply for several days after the sinkhole, the lawsuit says.

“Several banquets and catered events which were scheduled to take place at the hotel on June 8, 2016 were cancelled on account of the evacuation order as well as a number of room reservations which were cancelled or could not be fulfilled,” the lawsuit says.

On top of that, the company says it racked up “significant out-of-pocket expenses” to compensate staff and customers because of the inconveniences.

It’s all the fault of the city and RTG, the company says.

None of the allegations has been tested in court.

“The City of Ottawa does not comment on matters before the courts,” city solicitor and clerk Rick O’Connor said in an email.

RTG spokeswoman Kathryn Keyes said the consortium also doesn’t comment on legal matters.

Among the 15 allegations directed at RTG, Starwood claims the construction consortium designed the LRT project “without adequate structural support and bracing to prevent against the formation of the sinkhole.”

Starwood attempts to pin blame on RTG for allegedly not inspecting the LRT construction and supervising the work of construction employees. The LRT builder should have known, “or with reasonable diligence could have known,” that the design and construction was deficient, the lawsuit says.

There are also 10 allegations levelled at the city, including claims that the city failed to supervise the contractor and make sure Rideau Street in the area of the sinkhole “was in a reasonable state of repair in the circumstances.”

Starwood says it suffered property damage, a loss of profits and an accumulation of other expenses because of the “negligence” by the city and RTG.

The company says it doesn’t yet know the precise value of the damages.

The city released a report in April that investigated the cause of the sinkhole, but the lawsuit doesn’t reference the report.

The report, which was completed for the city by McMillen Jacobs Associates, says the LRT tunnelling work under Rideau Street disturbed the soft soil.

The city and RTG knew about the ground conditions in the area.

When the city released the report, it revealed it had received 32 claims for compensation from property owners and businesses affected by the sinkhole.

jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling



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