background image

A Brief Lesson on Class Actions

By Tina Jian
March 01, 2023
2 mins read

In a class actions lawsuit, one or more plaintiffs sue one or more defendants on behalf of a larger group of individuals who allege to have suffered the same type of loss from the defendants. In order to initiate a class actions lawsuit, a representative plaintiff (or several representative plaintiffs) is selected to pursue the claim on behalf of the said larger group.

Often times there are several counsels engaged in a class actions lawsuit, which necessitates a carriage motion. Once a decision is made as to who will have carriage of the matter, the parties begin preparing for certification. In order for a class action to proceed, a judge must be satisfied that the claim meets the requirements set out under the Class Proceedings Act, 1992, S.O. 1992, c. 6 (“CPA”).  Specifically, whether the claim:

  • discloses a cause of action;
  • contains an identifiable class;
  • proposes issues common to the class;
  • is the preferable procedure for resolving the complaint; and
  • has an appropriate representative plaintiff.

The claim is not assessed based on its merits. The plaintiff(s) need only show that it is not plain and obvious that no claim exists and that there is some basis in fact to meet the requirements set out under the CPA. The test is not a difficult one to meet. It is applied in a purposive and generous manner and historically the courts have been more inclined to certify class proceedings.

If a class action, however, is not certified then the process is at an end. If the action is certified and all appeals have been exhausted, notice is given to class members advising that the class action has been certified and any members of the class who do not wish to be a part of the class may opt-out. The action then proceeds through the stages of litigation including disclosure, discovery, and a common issues trial.

While class actions lawsuits have the potential to further societal goals by providing access to justice for litigants and promoting the efficient use of judicial resources, the process is long and cumbersome and a judgment can take several years. There are also limitations to what the class members can recover. Even if the plaintiffs are successful on the common issues, liability might not be proven and aggregate damages will not be awarded. There are several other scenarios in which aggregate damages may also not be awarded. In such cases, individual plaintiffs likely would have benefited from bringing an individual action as recovery might be higher and more efficient.

While there is generally a significant amount of publicity relating to class actions and the prospects might be appealing, the risks and benefits must be weighed prior to opting out of a class action.

From a defence perspective, engaging counsel as promptly as possible is key to developing a strong and viable defence and mitigating the effects of adverse publicity.

Bell Temple LLP has a specialized class action group and is engaged in several high-profile matters.  Please contact Partner Andrew K. Lee at [email protected] for further information.

Related Articles

Court Denies Inspection of a Fence More than Three Years After a Steer Escaped onto a Roadway and was Hit by a Motorist

October 06, 2023
accordion image

In Ouderkirk v. Walkhavern Farms Limited, the Plaintiff brought a motion to inspect the fencing system of the Defendants’ two acre pasture. The Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident on March 30, 2020,

Recent Decisions All Defence Counsel Should Be Aware of

September 26, 2023
accordion image

1.Mohamud v. Juskey, 2023 ONSC 4414

A case study in the dangers of failing to engage in regular review of files as well as the test for balancing probative value vs. prejudicial effect.



Cutting Corners Can Cause Costs: Inadequate Affidavit of Documents

September 22, 2023
accordion image

When proceeding to the document discovery stage of a lawsuit, parties have a duty to disclose all relevant documents in their possession, control or power. They do so through an Affidavit of Documents,

Injuries at the Gym: Liability Waivers and Occupier’s Liability

August 16, 2023
accordion image

With the end of COVID restrictions, the market size of the Gym, Health & Fitness Clubs industry in Canada is expected to increase 7.24% from 2023-2027, which means, more Ontarians getting gym memberships.[1]  Every gym membership


August 11, 2023
accordion image

The UMC provision and OPCF-44R endorsement are important components of automobile insurance policies in Ontario. They are designed to protect policyholders from the financial risks associated with accidents involving underinsured, unidentified, or uninsured motorists.

Ideally, claims brought against defendants


August 09, 2023
accordion image

The Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Act”) gives power to the condominium corporation to alter its obligations towards its unit owners​. For unit owners it means that they must agree with and follow the Act