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  • Class actions are common in the financial services sector. The relatively low bar for certification of such claims as class proceedings means that many such claims are certified. Yet certification is by no means automatic: where the litigation will not be significantly advanced through the resolution of common issues, courts will typically be reluctant to certify an action as a class proceeding.

    July 4, 2019
  • One of the seemingly foundational principles of tort law is that the plaintiff must prove they have suffered loss in order to establish a defendant’s liability. Plaintiffs are entitled to be compensated for the loss they have suffered, and only for the loss they have suffered—or so we thought. In Atlantic Lottery v Babstock, the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal capped off a developing line of authority in the class actions context that recognizes the possibility of an independent cause of action in “waiver of tort”.  Under this doctrine, claimants would be able to sue tortfeasors for disgorgement of profits gained through wrongdoing, without demonstrating that they themselves have suffered loss from such wrongdoing. This bold decision has attracted the attention of the Supreme Court of Canada, which in May 2019 granted leave to appeal to the defendant Lottery Corporation. Now all that’s left to do is to place your bets.

    June 11, 2019
  • Certification is a vital step in every class action.  In order for a class action to be certified, the proposed representative plaintiff must show “some basis in fact” to believe that the certification requirements are met. These requirements include that there are common issues of fact or law and that a class action would be the preferable procedure for resolving those common issues. The Supreme Court of Canada was clear in its decision in Pro-Sys Consultants Ltd v Microsoft Corporation that the some basis in fact standard is less onerous than a balance of probabilities standard. However, how that standard is to be applied remains a source of great difficulty for courts.

    May 31, 2019
  • The question of whether and when arbitration clauses will preclude a class proceeding is seemingly continually litigated. In some circumstances—such as in the consumer protection context—legislatures have clarified that certain claims cannot be subject to arbitration. In other cases, however, it is up to courts to craft the appropriate rules. The recent decision of TELUS Communications Inc v Wellman shows that the question of what rules are appropriate can attract significant disagreement. In a 5-4 split decision, the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada held that valid arbitration clauses in contracts should generally be given effect and that persons with such contracts should not be included in class proceedings.

    April 5, 2019
  • Parties to class action settlements often settle, at least in part, to avoid the ordinary uncertainty of litigation. Courts have long emphasized that while they retain discretion to supervise payments of lawyers’ fees as part of a settlement, the settlement approval process will not entail the Court re-writing a settlement that it is not prepared to approve.

    February 21, 2019
  • On December 28, 2018, the Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision in the case of Das v George Weston Limited. At 114 pages, the Court’s decision is thoroughly reasoned and substantive.  It also deals with important issues that are significant to all class action practitioners. For those who don’t want to wade through the full sets of reasons—and there’s a lot there—here’s our summary of the key take-aways from the Court of Appeal’s decision.

    January 23, 2019
  • A frequently litigated issue in Canadian class actions is the extent to which parties can agree in advance to opt out of class actions in favour of private arbitration. In the context of consumer protection claims, provincial legislatures have generally eliminated the ability of defendants to defeat class actions through arbitrations by declaring clauses requiring the parties to submit such disputes to private arbitrations to be void.  However, it has remained an open question as to whether and when courts would enforce arbitration clauses in other contexts, where the effect of such enforcement would be to defeat a proposed class proceeding.

    January 2, 2019
  • Product liability cases are routinely certified as class proceedings. Indeed, allegations that a product was negligently manufactured, or that a manufacturer failed to warn consumers of a particular risk, seem particularly amenable to resolution on a class-wide basis. However, not every such case is certified as a class proceeding. The recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Richardson v Samsung Electronics Canada Inc is one example of a case that was not certified. More importantly, it shows what steps defendants can proactively take to avoid certification of class actions against them.

    October 31, 2018
  • While class actions can be a useful tool for access to justice, there are limits to the types of claims that can be appropriately advanced through class proceedings. Indeed, the requirements for certification that appear in similar form in virtually every class action statute across Canada are meant to ensure that only those actions that can meaningfully proceed as class actions are in fact certified. Many cases, including certain types of pharmaceutical product liability claims, will simply be unsuitable for certification as a class action. The recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court in Price v H Lundbeck A/S provides an example of such a case.

    August 2, 2018
  • As I have observed before, class actions are expensive for defendants and resource-intensive for the justice system.  In order to try and minimize that expense, defendants typically want to dispose of class actions they face as early as possible.  This has given rise to a body of case law that addresses the question of when defendants will be allowed to bring pre-certificate motions.  As the recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Austin v Bell Canada shows, defendants face a high threshold in persuading the court to allow such motions to precede certification.

    July 4, 2018

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