The 3 goals of class proceedings aka class actions are understood to be:
- Judicial economy – a single class action is more efficient than potentially hundreds or thousands of individual cases;
- Access to justice – many claims are too complex or expensive for an individual claimant to be feasible; and
- Behaviour modification – class actions play an important role in accountability and safety.
It is not uncommon for a class action to be based out of a single province or apply across Canada. Quebec, Ontario and B.C. have the most class action cases. In Ontario, class actions are governed by the Class Proceedings Act, 1992 and the Rules of Civil Procedure.
To be certified as a class action, there are 5 requirements:
- There must be a valid cause of action. While many class actions raise novel issues, they must be based on established law such as breach of contract or negligence.
- There must be an identifiable class. This is necessary so that members of the class can be identified, notified about the class action and bound by the class action, unless they opt out. Within a class, there can be subclasses of members who have slightly different circumstances.
- There must be common issues. Common issues can relate to common facts or common issues of law that arise from common facts.
- A class action must be preferable to another procedure. Simply put, a class proceeding must make sense when alternatives are considered. Just because 2 or more people have issues in common is not sufficient.
- There must be a representative plaintiff or defendant. This person must fairly and adequately represent the members of the class, have a solid plan for advancing the class action and must not have interests that conflict with the common issues.
Individuals who are covered by a class action cannot be liable for costs and can opt out of the class action by the specified deadline in order to pursue an individual lawsuit. It is okay for class members to have different damages, as processes can be determined to assess individual claims after common issues are dealt with.
Court approval of any settlement is required, in order to provide a supervisory role for the Courts to ensure the settlement is fair to the class. Contingency fee arrangements are acceptable and fees and disbursements must also be approved by the Courts.
More Information on Class Actions
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