Steps in the class action
A class action follows a different path from a regular court proceeding.
As a "member of the group", you generally have nothing to do prior to the judgment, except if you want to opt out of the class.
However, you must respect certain obligations.
Please note that this section explains the main features of a class action in Québec. The legal rules are more complex, and contain various exceptions and nuances.
Before filing a class action, the representative's lawyer must obtain authorization from the court. For this purpose, the lawyer must submit an application for authorization to the court office that
- specifies the facts supporting the class action;
- shows that the cause is serious;
- describes the class that will be entitled to compensation, if applicable;
- establishes that a large number of people are facing the same problem.
First, the court analyzes if the class action should be authorized. More specifically, it
- verifies if more than one class action has been filed for the alleged problem;
- establishes if the facts alleged appear to justify the conclusions sought;
- determines if the class action is an effective way to obtain the compensation sought for the group;
- assesses if the representative is able to perform his or her role.
The court may authorize or deny the class action. If the court authorizes the class action, it will render a judgment authorizing the class action and
- describing the class concerned;
- giving the name of the representative;
- identifying the main issues.
The judgment may be appealed to the Québec Court of Appeal, and then to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Notice to members
Once the judgment authorizing the class action has been rendered, a notice to class members is published in the registry of class actions, in newspapers or on certain websites.
The notice must inform the members, in particular, about
- who is being sued and for what problem;
- who is a member of the class;
- who is the representative;
- what the contact information is for the group's lawyer;
- what conclusion is sought by the class action (such as compensation or repayment).
The notice to members also states how to opt out of the class.
The class's lawyer must file the class action within 3 months after the judgment authorizing the class action
At this point, a class action and a regular proceeding follow a similar path. The same rules apply with respect to the submission of evidence, the hearing and the judgment.
At any time, a settlement may bring the trial to an end. However, it must be approved by the court, and a notice to the class members must be sent out before the hearing to approve the settlement.
After the trial, the judge makes a judgment on the merits of the case.
If the judgment grants the representative's application, it describes the class entitled to receive compensation or repayment, or the changes that the defendant must make to the practices found to be illegal. The description of the class may, for example, take the form "All persons who, between January 1, 2015 and July 1, 2015, purchased a defective ABC brand computer for which the ZYX company refused to provide a repayment."
The judgment applies to any person who matches the description and did not opt out of the group within the prescribed time.
The judgment may be appealed to the Québec Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.
After judgment is rendered, the judge orders a new notice to be published and sent to the class members. In the notice, as a class member, you will be informed:
- of the amount you are awarded or the steps you must take to have the amount fixed;
- of the steps you must take to claim the amount;
- • of the time limit for filing your claim and any supporting documents required.
During the class action, the description of the class may have changed. Before filing your claim, you should check again if you are still concerned by the class action.
If a balance remains after all the class members have been suitably compensated, the court may either
- order a second distribution to the class members, who each receive additional compensation;
- or remit the remaining balance to a non-profit organization which, in most cases, has a connection with the problem targeted by the class action, such as a hospital if the class action concerned healthcare.