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The Interesting World of Class Actions

by | Feb 22, 2021 | Legal

What does it take to initiate a class action lawsuit in Canada?

At one point or another, we’ve all eagerly followed along as captivating class action lawsuits made headlines across the globe. From Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder to Facebook’s privacy breach, class actions are all around us. But how many of us actually know what a class action lawsuit really is or what it takes to initiate one?

What is a class action?

Class actions have become an increasingly popular means for large groups of people to fight for compensation over a common grievance or injury. This system avoids chaos and simplifies procedures by avoiding hundreds of individual claims and trials against one company or corporation. Practically any claim seeking justice for a broad range of people can be filed as a class action in Canada.

Did you know?
PEI is the only province in Canada that does not have a class action procedure.

How are class actions initiated?

These lawsuits are usually brought by one individual on behalf of the larger group, with one plaintiff acting as a representative for the class. Class actions are often lengthy and can be multijurisdictional cases.

A class action may be initiated by filing a statement of claim in any Canadian province or territory. In Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, a class action may be initiated through an application; in British Colombia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Newfoundland, one may be initiated through a petition; in Quebec, it requires an application to authorize the filing of a class action. In all provinces, proposed class actions must be certified by the court.

What are the requirements for filing a class action?

In deciding whether a case can officially proceed as a class action, a judge will consider the following:

  1. How many people have been affected?
    If the number of affected people only amounts to a handful, a judge may decide that individual lawsuits would be more appropriate.
  1. Does each class member share common questions of law and fact?
    The lawsuit must involve factual and legal issues that are common across all class members. Additionally, each member should have suffered the same injury.
  1. Is the Plaintiff’s claim representative of all class members?
    If the individual bringing the lawsuit has suffered injuries much greater than the rest of the class, the judge may rule that the Plaintiff should file an individual lawsuit.
  1. Is the class adequately represented?
    At this time, the court considers the plaintiff who will represent the entire class in the action. The plaintiff should fairly and adequately represent the interests of all class members and must not have any interest that differs from that of the other class members. A representative plaintiff should extensively discuss the risks and rewards with a lawyer before becoming one.

A Canadian example: Parking meter mishaps

A great example of a class action suit in Canada is the recent class action approved by the court in Quebec against Montreal and Quebec City for their parking meters. In January 2021, a Quebec judge approved this class action lawsuit on behalf of anyone who used a parking meter in either of the two cities since June 2015. This suit could bring together thousands of upset residents across these cities.

Final thoughts

While anyone can start a class action lawsuit, we advise speaking with an experienced attorney to determine the merits of the case. Since courts tend to dismiss frivolous lawsuits, an attorney will ensure his or her potential client has a valid claim before filing a case.

If you’re thinking about filing a class action due to an injury, give us a call or book a virtual meeting!

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