Invoking change through group action
When multiple people have suffered injuries or harms as a result of the negligent or deliberate actions of one party or group, there may be recourse through a class action lawsuit. This is where one of the harmed individuals steps in as the “representative plaintiff” of a class of individuals who have been harmed. The representative plaintiff makes a civil claim against the at-fault party. Class actions are for civil actions only, and where there are related criminal charges, the cases will proceed separately through the courts. Where a criminal charge has not been successful, this does not mean that a civil charge is necessarily unsustainable.
Class action lawsuits promote access to justice for claims that might otherwise not have been pursued, and cost efficiency through litigating the issue once and holding all injured members of the class to that decision. Class actions are a powerful tool for legislative change. When many people are injured or wronged, the court will award a large sum of money to be divided among that class of people. This has a strong deterrent effect on future negligence and wrongdoing. Class actions are also an efficient means of telling the unique, but related, stories of many people who have been affected by a single actor or event.
Class action process
A class action follows a process similar to any other civil lawsuit. An action must be filed with the proper court and the relevant court procedure rules must be followed. There are a few distinctions, however, that differentiate this type of action.
First, there must be a representative plaintiff designated so that the action can be filed with the court. This plaintiff must be someone who can represent the interests of the class of harmed individuals.
Second, the lawsuit must be certified by way of a motion argued in court. Practically speaking, the requirements to satisfy certification can differ between provinces. In general, in order to be certified, there must be a valid cause of action, an identifiable class of harmed individuals, the claims being raised by the class must arise from a common issue, and a class action must be the appropriate means of handling the case.
It is important to note that class action lawsuits take time to complete. They must abide by the timelines and procedures set out by the appropriate court. Also, not every member of the class needs to have been affected in the same way. Damages can be assessed on an individual basis to ensure that each individual is treated and compensated appropriately.
Common class action scenarios
- Airplane crashes
- Helicopter crashes
- Widespread medical negligence/abuse
- Abuse by an authority figure, such as a priest or other trusted person in a position of power
- Faulty products or recalls
- Privacy breaches
Ongoing class action lawsuits handled by MacGillivray Law
- Canadian Helicopters Limited
- Dr. Errol Gaum
Legislation and other helpful links
Newfoundland & Labrador
- Rule 7A of the Rules of the Supreme Court, 1986, SNL 1986 c 42.
- Class Actions Act, SNL 2001, c C-18.1.
Prince Edward Island
** Currently common law as there is no class action legislation yet in force
We represent claimants in class action lawsuits
A class action lawsuit is a powerful way to evoke change. A group of people standing together against injustice is hard to ignore. The lawyers of MacGillivray Law are equipped to pursue class action lawsuits.
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