Posts Tagged ‘canadian class action’

The loyal reader will note that ClassActionBlawg covers class action trends in other parts of the world, including Canada.  But since I live about 1000 miles (or 1609.344 km) from Canada, and certainly have no license to practice law there, you have to take anything I say about trends in Canadian law with a huge grain of salt. 

Not so with Ward Branch’s aptly named blog Class Actions in Canada.  If you want to get an insider’s view of class action news, legislation, decisions, and trends across the border, be sure check it out:


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A colleague tipped me off today to the Supreme Court of Canada’s April 2 decision in Canada Post Corp. v. Lépine, 2009 SCC 16.  In that case, Canada’s high court upheld a lower court decision limiting the reach of a settlement class action filed in Ontario, purportedly on behalf of all residents of Canada other than residents of British Columbia.  The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision was an appeal from the Court of Appeal for Quebec, arising from a competing, parallel class action filed on behalf of Quebec residents.  The Quebec court had refused to recognize the validity of the Ontario court’s judgment approving the settlement in that case.

The high court’s ruling:

  • offers an analysis of the “Legal Framework for the Recognition of External Judgments,” including issues of comity in evaluating the binding effect of a judgment in one province on residents of another province,
  • discusses the concept of forum non conveniens in the context of national class actions, 
  • addresses issues of proper class notice in multi-jurisdictional settlements, and
  • comments on problems of national class action settlements in Canada in general, including the need for communication and cooperation between trial courts in different jurisdictions and the need for intervention by provincial legislatures in creating a more comprehensive framework for national class actions.

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I just received my quarterly issue of the ABA Class Actions and Derivative Suits Committee (CADS) Newsletter.   The Winter 2009 issue features several articles on trends in international class action law, highlighted by Class Actions San Frontiers, an article authored by three Canadian panelists from a presentation of the same name from November’s ABA National Institute on Class Actions, David I.W. Hamer, Sylvie Rodrique, and Charles M. Wright.  The article outlines recent trends in litigation involving concurrent class action and mass tort litigation in the U.S. and Canada.

Unfortunately, the report is only currently available in paper form.   Presumably, an electronic version should be available soon to CADS members on the newsletter web page.

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I’m still on the road with plans to return to Denver later today, but in the interest of keeping the loyal reader completely up to date on the latest in class action news, here are a couple of quick items:

This Vancouver Sun article summarizes a NERA Consulting report on trends in securities class action litigation continues to rise in Canada.

The Scranton Times Tribune reports that class action lawsuits are being “mulled” by a nonprofit organization and a trial lawyer in the wake of a kickback scandal involving two juvenile court judges.  For related news, see this Overlawyered entry, Class action law firm announces “investigation.”

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“Public nuisance” environmental class actions have not fared well in the U.S. recently, but apparently not so in Canada.  Close on the heels of the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s decision in Rhode Island v. Lead Industries Association, the Supreme Court of Canada has affirmed a Quebec Superior Court’s finding of liability based on the theory that a company’s emissions constituted “excessive annoyance” to surrounding residents even though the company had complied with all applicable environmental laws and regulations and was otherwise without fault. 

I have not seen the opinion, but according to news reports, the court limited the availability of class action remedy to landowners, excluding tenants and family members.  This suggests that court was persuaded that claims for damage to property value could be treated on a class-wide basis, but not personal injury claims.  Whatever the limitation on the availability of damages, however, there can be little doubt that this decision will have a big impact on the course of environmental litigation in Canada, if not in the U.S. too.

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As the European Union and individual EU countries consider potential reforms for dealing with mass and class action lawsuits (see my previous entries here and here), Canadian class actions are becoming more similar to those in the United States, according to an April 18 report in Canadian Underwriter.ca. The article remarks that significant increases in contingent fee awards in recent Canadian class actions have led to an increase in lawyer-driven lawsuits as opposed to those that are consumer-driven or driven purely by altruistic motives. 

Fair or not, it is clear that many outside the U.S. view the U.S.-style class action system as being driven exclusively by lawyers and greed.  Combating this perception should be an important goal as we consider potential reforms in our own state and federal courts.  Our class action system shares with those being developed considered in other countries the noble objectives of discouraging corporate or government abuse and adequate compensation of consumers.  However, those of us who practice in the U.S. realize that our system is a complex one that has developed over many decades.  Procedures intended to discourage widespread abuse and promote compensation of victims have to be accompanied by incentives for championing those intrests, and they must also be tempered by due process protections of the rights of potential defendants.  Attempts at reform may not always have their desired result.  (See this entry on the latest FJC report on CAFA).  It will be interesting to track new procedures and reforms that are chosen in other countries who have far less experience and history with mass or class actions.  On the one hand, they may have the advantage of being able to start from scratch without having to face pushback from entrenched governmental, institutional, and private interests in maintaining an existing system.  On the other hand, they lack the decades of analysis, testing, and tweaking that our system has undergone.

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