Class Action FAQ

What is a class proceeding?

A class action or application is a court proceeding where one or more of the plaintiffs act on behalf of a larger group or "class" of persons who have a common interest.

What is the purpose of bringing class actions?

The courts refer to three major objectives of class actions:

  1. judicial economy - avoiding similar actions tying up numerous judges and excessive court resources;
  2. increased access to justice - allowing individuals with relatively small claims or resources the opportunity to have their day in court; and
  3. Deterrence or behaviour modification - the prevalence and accessibility of class actions deters potential wrongdoers, no matter how wealthy or powerful, from unlawful acts or omissions.

What are the steps I have to take in order to bring a class proceeding?

The first step is to have the action certified by the court as being a class action. The court will determine who may be included in the class. The court will appoint one or two people to represent the class in the proceeding. The class representative is the person responsible for providing instructions to the lawyer representing the class. The court will also establish which issues of law or facts are common among class members.

What are the relevant facts that the court will consider in order to determine whether my action will become a class action?

The factors that the courts look at are whether:

  1. the pleadings disclose a viable cause of action;
  2. there is an identifiable class of two or more persons;
  3. the claims (or defences) raise common issues;
  4. a class action is the preferable procedure to resolve the common issues;
  5. the class representative (i.e. the plaintiff) will fairly represent the interests of the class, has advanced a workable method of advancing the proceeding and notifying class members and has no conflict of interest with the other class members.

Can I join a class proceeding that is already in progress? How?

Yes. Anyone who is included in the description of the class as recorded by the court is automatically included in the class unless they request to be excluded. It is important for the class lawyers to know of your interest in the proceeding. Please note that a U.S. based class action does not generally protect your rights in Canada.

What are the advantages of proceeding by class action as opposed to on my own?

The main advantage is reduced costs. The members of a class are not responsible for paying their lawyer's fees for the common issues under a class action unless the claim is successful, in which case the fees are usually paid by the defendants.

Do I have to pay anything?

No. We will be paid from the proceeds of settlement or the collection on a judgment. Furthermore, our final fees always have to be approved by the court.

I think I may have a possible claim, what should I do?

Please call or e-mail and we will be happy to meet with you right away, without any cost or obligation, to determine if you have a viable claim and to protect your interests. The Limitations Act 2002 (in force January 1, 2004) generally imposes a 2 year limitation period and you should act quickly.