A pair of recent letters to the editor of the Yuma, Arizona online newspaper the Yuma Sun debate the impact of class action lawsuits on the success of national healthcare reform in Canada.
The first letter, from David P. Bossler, argues that the success of universal health care in Canada can be attributed in part to restrictions on contingent fee awards and a loser pays rule:
In Canada, the lawyers in class action suits gets paid by the plaintiff for their efforts, win or lose. The plaintiffs get the entire monetary reward and the loser pays court costs.
This eliminates the spurious extremely costly class action suits that bankrupt companies, pay peanuts to the plaintiffs and make billionaires out of the lawyers.
The response, from Canadian lawyer Mark Mounteer, counters that fee agreements and fee-shifting rules in many parts of Canada are quite similar to those in the U.S. and that class actions involving medical malpractice issues are uncommon in both countries:
It would be unusual in either Canada or the U.S. for a class action to be brought for a doctor’s negligence. A class action is brought where a large number of persons are injured by a common cause. A doctor’s error is likely to cause damage to only one person.
As Mounteer intimates, class actions in many parts of Canada are becoming more and more similar to those common in the U.S. One important thing to consider in thinking about Canadian class actions is that jurisdiction in the federal court system in Canada is much more limited than that of the U.S. federal courts. So, class action practice is limited almost exclusively to superior courts in individual provinces. Procedures governing class actions and other aspects of civil procedure can vary significantly from province to province.
A good source for information on class actions in Canada is Ward Branch’s blog, Class Actions in Canada.