ROBERT BARRON CITIZEN
Susan Faulkner is still in a legal limbo with her ongoing court case against the City of Duncan.
Faulkner was the owner of the Red Balloon Toy Store and the building it was housed in on the corner of Station and Craig streets.
But the old building was ordered to be torn down by the city in 2014 after a city-owned backhoe accidentally struck it in 2009, causing significant damage.
Faulkner was stuck with the cost of approximately $400,000 to demolish the building at the order of the city and has been fighting the city in court ever since.
The latest court date for the case was earlier this month, but it has been postponed again until April, 2017, according to Faulkner.
“There’s no guarantee that it will finally be settled then either,” she said.
“I’m 66 and had planned to be retired by now, but all these costs have prevented that.”
Faulkner started the Red Balloon store in 2001, and bought the building in 2006 as a retirement investment.
It was fully occupied by tenants in 2009 when the backhoe struck a support pillar, causing damage that she claims didn’t manifest immediately.
The building gradually began to shift, and sustained further damage in the summer of 2009 because of construction work on Craig Street.
In one instance, a jackhammer caused wires in the building to rub together, producing flames that were prevented from causing significant damage because they burned through a water pipe and extinguished themselves.
Despite many attempts to fix and stabilize the structure, WorkSafeBC eventually shut down the building, forcing Faulkner to evict her tenants.
She ended up selling the toy business before she was prepared to, and has since had to start a new business, a Kumon learning centre, at the age of 65 to help make ends meet.
Peter de Verteuil, Duncan’s CAO, said the case, which involves a number of issues and defendants, is one of the more complicated he has seen in his career.
He said the city doesn’t dispute that its backhoe struck the building, but the argument is over the extent of the damage caused by the incident.
“If we at the city and our insurers felt we could have settled this matter right away, we would have,” de Verteuil said.
“But there are complicated claims here. Working with our insurers is like a driver dealing with ICBC in that we leave it up to our insurer as to how to proceed.”
De Verteuil said the city knows the ongoing situation has been hard on Faulkner. “She had a building, and now she doesn’t.
“We certainly feel for her.”