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now awaits royal assent, alters more than 15 other provincial acts, with the bulk of changes aimed at modernizing the outdated justice system.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

File photo
Update: Leduc RCMP request assistance to identify armed robbery suspect

Leduc RCMP are searching for suspect involved in an armed robbery at the Leduc Giant Tiger.

file photo
UPDATE: Leduc RCMP, Millet Fire Department and more on scene at serious multi-vehicle collision

Traffic is expected to be diverted for several hours and alternative travel routes are recommended.

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

The Sylvan Lake Gulls show off the home jerseys (white) and their way jerseys at the Gulls Media Day on June 17, before the season opener. Following the media day, the team took to the field for their first practise. (Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News)
Sylvan Lake Gulls ready to throw first pitch as construction continues

The Gulls inaugural season kicks off June 18 with a game against the Edmonton Prospects

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Most Read