Engineer suspended in N.B. and P.E.I., lawsuits allege flawed apartment-building designs

A Moncton engineer faces three separate lawsuits alleging problems with designs, including this one in Dieppe, which is still under construction.  (Becky Parsons/Radio-Canada - image credit)
A Moncton engineer faces three separate lawsuits alleging problems with designs, including this one in Dieppe, which is still under construction. (Becky Parsons/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A Moncton structural engineer has been suspended in two provinces, and lawsuits have been filed alleging design flaws in three apartment buildings she helped design.

A May 17 notice from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick says Hélène Thériault has had her licence to practise suspended.

"Clients of Ms. Hélène Thériault are advised to obtain new Professional Engineering support for their projects immediately," the notice states.

Association CEO and registrar Lia Daborn told Information Morning Moncton that its complaints committee received information about "a number of buildings in the province" serious enough to suspend her licence until further information gathered and a disciplinary hearing held.

A disciplinary hearing had been scheduled for June 10 in New Brunswick, but has been indefinitely delayed.

Notifying municipalities, building owners

Asked how many buildings are affected, Daborn said they're still gathering information and notifying municipalities and building owners.

Some apartment buildings were already occupied, while others are still in the construction and development process. Daborn said they have made those builders or owners aware of potential issues.

"As far as I am aware, there have been no evacuations or requirements for people to be evicted or told to move out," Daborn said.

"Our understanding is that the building owners are taking the appropriate action to ensure that the buildings are safe for people."

Jim Landrigan, executive director and registrar for Engineers PEI, said the organization suspended Thériault after being notified by counterparts in New Brunswick.

"We were told there was an issue with some of the structures that had underground parking, that it wasn't properly designed and there could be a failure as a result," Landrigan said.

Landrigan said he's not aware of any Prince Edward Island structures affected.

Lawsuits filed

Three lawsuits have been filed in Moncton since March naming Thériault and her firm, Ingénierie Match Engineering Inc.

Thériault, the sole corporate director of Match Engineering, did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did her lawyer.

The cases allege flaws with the designs of buildings in Dieppe, Shediac and Miramichi.

An apartment building under construction in Dieppe at the centre of one of three lawsuits involving a Moncton engineer.
An apartment building under construction in Dieppe at the centre of one of three lawsuits involving a Moncton engineer.

An apartment building under construction in Dieppe is at the centre of one of three lawsuits involving a Moncton engineer. (Becky Parsons/Radio-Canada)

"In or about December 2023 during the course of construction, structural failures were discovered by the Plaintiff including significant cracking in the foundation walls," a lawsuit filed in March says about a Dieppe building.

That building, four floors above an underground parking garage, is still under construction.

It's the only case where Thériault's company has filed a statement of defence.

The document filed May 30 says, "Match admits to certain deficiencies in design, but, denies all other statements and allegations" in the lawsuit. The statement doesn't elaborate on the admitted deficiencies. It is asking the court to have the case dismissed.

One lawsuit alleges issues in the design of this apartment building in Shediac that required temporary and permeant fixes.
One lawsuit alleges issues in the design of this apartment building in Shediac that required temporary and permeant fixes.

One lawsuit alleges problems with the design of this apartment building in Shediac that required temporary and permanent fixes. (Becky Parsons/Radio-Canada)

A separate case alleges that soon after completion of a Miramichi apartment building, problems were discovered that required immediate steps to "prevent further damage."

The case filed April 2 says the issues led to the building being "unsafe, necessitating immediate temporary repairs and permanent repairs, which are being undertaken at the building."

The cases seek payment for repairs, though the documents don't say how much this work has cost.

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

It's unclear how many buildings Thériault may have helped design.

Arena checked

Caraquet Mayor Bernard Thériault told Radio-Canada that Thériault was involved in the design of the community's $25-million intergenerational complex. The building, which includes a 600-seat arena, is still under construction.

The mayor said the municipality was notified of her involvement by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick.

The project's structure was independently inspected, and the mayor said no structural issues were found.