New Ontario law makes it harder to sue companies via class action

New Ontario law makes it harder to sue companies via class action

TORONTO — Ontario lawmakers approved a bill on Wednesday that sets a higher bar for class action suits, and experts say it will be harder for consumers to sue businesses.

“Because the test is more challenging now, many cases will get dropped. Businesses could likely defeat them,” says Toronto lawyer Margaret Waddell. “Now if a company acts badly, that behaviour will go unchecked — and consumers won’t have remedy for the harms they suffered.”

Currently, a judge must approve or “certify” that a class action meets minimum legal requirements for it to proceed. Under the new law, judges would have to consider stricter guidelines before permitting a group to sue a company.

That means businesses could successfully bat away more potential lawsuits before they go forward, Waddell says.

The new standard, similar to what is used in the U.S., is not easy for the average consumer to meet. Successful class actions on residential schools, environmental tragedies such as the E. coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ont. and tainted blood would not have made it past this new test, the Law Commission of Ontario has estimated.

To get a class action to court, a group would now have to prove that the class action is better than any other way of resolving the dispute — for example, an individual lawsuit, tribunal complaint or “remediation” outside the legal system. The group must also prove that the greatest harms they suffered, individually — often at the hands of a company — also impacted everyone in the group.

Bill 161, which now awaits royal assent, alters more than 15 other provincial acts, with the bulk of changes aimed at modernizing the outdated justice system.

The office of Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey says the bill actually promotes fairer settlements and quick resolutions where “interests of Ontarians are at the heart.”

Press secretary Jenessa Crognali says the bill includes the first comprehensive updates to class actions in a quarter-century.

“They are designed to help Ontarians resolve their legal issues faster and receive meaningful access to justice,” Crognali says.

But Waddell says that since lawyers are only paid when a class action concludes, it may also become more difficult to convince them to take on risky cases that could take years to fight.

“Our courts simply aren’t equipped,” Waddell says. “What they have done is slam the door, in particular, on personal injury types of cases, and haven’t opened any other doors.”

Downey’s office says people are free to pursue other paths to resolve disputes, and the new system makes sure that a class action is “the most appropriate procedure.”

“These improvements address issues that clog the system and slow down justice for everyone,” says Crognali.

But, says Waddell, many class actions exist to benefit people who could not afford to hire a lawyer and sue a company on their own.

“It’s not economically feasible,” Waddell says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2020.

Anita Balakrishnan, The Canadian Press

Business

Just Posted

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer drops to 71 active cases of COVID-19

Province adds 127 new cases of the virus

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

Most Read