Formula E's lawsuit against Montreal can go ahead, court rules

The provincial Court of Appeal has allowed a lawsuit against the city over the cancelled Formula E race to go ahead, after Mayor Valérie Plante's request to throw the suit out was rejected.

The race was held only once in Montreal, in 2017, under Plante's predecessor in office, Denis Coderre.  The race drew widespread criticism from merchants and residents in the eastern half of downtown and the Gay Village over extensive street closures, crowds and noise that choked that section of the city for well over a week.  Very few tickets were actually sold at face-value; the rest were given away.

In the election campaign held later that year, then-opposition leader Valérie Plante campaigned on a promise to move the Formula E race, which the city was contractually-obliged to hold for the next two years, to the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, where it wouldn't disturb residents and businesses.  After she won the election, Formula E's organizers refused to move the race, so Plante cancelled the events entirely.

Plante argued to the courts that the ensuing lawsuit amounted to a strategic lawsuit against public participation, known as a SLAPP.  But the province's highest court agreed with an earlier ruling by the Quebec Superior Court that the lawsuit did not amount to a SLAPP.

In Justice Stephen W. Hamilton's decision, he wrote that the case "is rather commercial in nature", making note of the monetary damages sought by the Formula E organizers.

Notably, Montréal, c'est électrique — the now-bankrupt nonprofit set up to run the race — withdrew from the lawsuit against the city in February, citing a lack of funds, leaving Formula E alone in their suit against the city.  Auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers is acting as MCE's appointed trustee in the case.

Formula E is seeking a total of $16 million from the city, down from the suit's initial $33 million demand.