HomeNewsIsland & CoastJudge scolds ship-breaking company, but allows lawsuit against drone-flying senior to continue

Judge scolds ship-breaking company, but allows lawsuit against drone-flying senior to continue

A Union Bay senior who’s been monitoring nearby ship-breaking operations for years has the courts on her side, at least partially.

Mary Reynolds has been using an airborne drone to record videos of the work being done by Deep Water Recovery, a company which dismantles old ships. The operation has run afoul of the Comox Valley Regional District, K’Omoks First Nation, local residents, and DFO, who are all concerned about potential environmental damages.

After several angry interactions between Reynolds and the company owner in June 2022, along with several other unnamed employees, she filed a civil claim asking for a 100-foot restraining order against the men, claiming she was harassed, assaulted and intimidated.

The next month the company filed a counter-claim against her, claiming she was causing them financial damage by posting her videos online, and that she was doing it out of malice.

Last week Justice Gareth Morely admonished the company, and said the way they described the 74-year-old was “troubling and over the top.” He said her videos were clearly in the public interest.

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However, he did point out that rules for flying drones in Canada are still evolving, and that while “the occupier of land has a right to exclude from the immediate air space up to some height… how that height is defined… is uncertain.”

He rejected the company’s reasons for wanting to prevent Reynolds from flying her drone over the operation.

“In my view, there is no plausible interpretation of the law of trespass that would preclude all aerial photography or videography of DWR’s open-air operations,” he said in his written reasons for judgment.

Justice Morely also rejected the company’s claims that her videos were a “nuisance.”

“Even if some of Ms. Reynolds’ activities with the drone are found to be a nuisance, I find it highly unlikely that any aerial videos of the industrial activity would be held to be nuisances,” he said.

However, he did find grounds for some of the company’s claims, and rejected Reynolds’ defence for physically intruding on the site. He also acknowledged that her regular drone flights are distracting and unwanted for site workers, and possibly safety hazards. However, he said they aren’t enough to warrant the company’s claims for financial damages.

Justice Morely did decide to allow the company’s counter-suit against Reynolds to go ahead, but they cannot sue for punitive damages, and they cannot do anything about her videos that have been published.

Reynolds and the company now have until May 6 to request a hearing to hash out the remainder of the claims in terms of costs and damages.



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