A class action is defined by the Code of Civil Procedure as “a procedural means enabling a person who is a member of a class of persons to sue, without a mandate, on behalf of all the members of the class and to represent the class”¹. A class action therefore contributes to greatly reducing the costs associated with a civil suit and the imbalance that may sometimes exist between the parties, seeing as a single judicial proceeding may lead to the compensation of a very large number of people.
However, before a judgment can be rendered, several steps remain necessary, the first of which is having the class action authorized by the court. Moreover, in that respect, here are the criteria that must be met in Court:
- the claims of the members of the class raise identical, similar or related issues of law or fact;
- the facts alleged appear to justify the conclusions sought;
- the composition of the class makes it difficult or impracticable to apply the rules for mandates to take part in judicial proceedings on behalf of others or for consolidation of proceedings; and
- the class member appointed as representative plaintiff is in a position to properly represent the class members².
Once the class action has been authorized, the Court will establish the group of authorized plaintiffs as well as the group’s representative plaintiff. The Court will also set the timeframe within which members of the group will be allowed to ask to be excluded from the class action and, therefore, not be bound by the judgment—regardless of the outcome of the case. Conversely, if a member of the group does not ask to be excluded within the applicable timeframe, he or she will be bound by the conclusions of the judgment rendered by the Court.
Also once the class action has been authorized, the plaintiffs will need to complete the file before the case is heard by the Court. Afterwards, the Court will render judgment and order, as applicable, that the persons covered by the class action receive compensation.
Whereas the costs associated with a class action can represent a deterrent, it may be interesting to turn to the Class Action Assistance Fund for assistance. Indeed, this fund’s main mission is to provide financial assistance to persons who are seeking to initiate a class action.
The lawyers at Bernier Fournier are tooled to advise you and accompany you through each stage of a class action, from the authorization to the judicial proceeding itself or, as applicable, when the time comes to compensate the plaintiffs. We can also facilitate access to the Class Action Assistance Fund to mitigate the financial burden of launching a class action.
The members of our firm are experienced in litigation and understand the difficulties involved in class actions. They will be able to provide you with support and advice at every step of the class action process.
¹ Code of Civil Procedure, R.S.Q., c. C-25.01, s. 571.
² Idem, s. 575.