Through class proceeding and mass tort litigation we help our clients access justice and hold corporations and government entities accountable.
What is a class action?
Class Actions under the BC Class Proceedings Act allow individual BC residents to challenge corporations and Government institutions by allowing them to join together to litigate issues that would be uneconomical for an individual to litigate on their own. A class action lawsuit allows one person, called a representative plaintiff, to start an action on behalf of himself or herself as well as all others who fit into a defined class. This is subject to the right of class members to withdraw or “opt-out” of the defined class and pursue legal remedies on their own. This means that a single person can commence a class action on behalf of everyone who has suffered a similar harm. Class action legislation allows greater access to justice by permitting groups of people who are similarly affected to join together in commencing legal action.
In 1995 the Class Proceedings Act was enacted in British Columbia. In order for a case to be suitable as a class action there must be one or more suitable “common issues” that effect all of the members of the class. The common issues must be capable of being tried and determined for all class members at the same time. After a class action is started there is a “certification hearing” to determine whether there are common issues that make the case suitable to be certified as a class action in British Columbia. If the case is certified as a class action the case proceeds and there will be a trial to determine the certified “common issues” on behalf of all of the class members. When there is a settlement in a class action the settlement must be approved by the court.
The Class Proceedings Act was enacted in 1995 with wording that made British Columbia what is referred to as a “national opt-in jurisdiction”. This meant that once a class action was certified in BC, all affected BC residents were deemed to be part of the certified class unless they opted-out. Other affected Canadian residents could opt-in to the certified BC class if they wished, however, they were not deemed to be members of the class unless they proactively took the step of opting-in. At the same time other jurisdictions in Canada had what is referred to as “national opt-out legislation”. This meant that once a class was certified in those jurisdictions, everyone across Canada in the affected class was deemed to be part of the class unless they opted-out. From 2014 to 2018, Richard Parsons, of Parsons Corrin LLP, worked as part of a Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia committee engaging with the BC Government to seek an amendment to the Class Proceedings Act to make BC a “national opt-out jurisdiction”. After a four-year effort in 2018 the Class Proceedings Act was amended by the Provincial Legislature to make BC a “national opt-out jurisdiction”. This was a significant change to the British Columbia Class Proceedings Act. Prior to the change class actions of national scope were almost always commenced in jurisdictions other than British Columbia. Following the amendment, BC has become one of the leading jurisdictions in Canada for national scope class action litigation.