BC court uses “test case” to resolve common and individual issues after a common issues trial

Gautam v Canada Line Rapid Transit Inc., 2018 BCSC 1515 demonstrates that class actions do not need to follow the model of a single common issues trial followed by a series of individual hearings. Following the common issues trial in Gautam, the parties returned to court to resolve the damages claims of three class members in a “test case” that also dealt with other de facto, but uncertified, common issues.

The case arose from the construction of the Canada Line, a subway line underneath Cambie Street in Vancouver. A class of property owners and business operators on Cambie Street alleged that they suffered loss because construction of the Canada Line affected access to their premises. They brought claims against the entities that built the Canada Line.

The class action was certified. At the common issues trial, the court found that the class members could advance a claim for injurious affection resulting from reductions in land rental values during construction. To do so, individual class members would have to establish that they were affected by reduced rental values.

Instead of proceeding to individual hearings, the parties returned to court for a hybrid procedure. In what the court described as a “test case”, three class members brought a summary proceeding for damages for injurious affection. As the court noted, it was “contemplated that the claims of the remaining plaintiffs will be resolved in accordance with the parameters [set by the summary hearing].”

While the court ultimately awarded damages to each of the three class members after receiving evidence on their individual circumstances, the court also resolved broader issues that presumably bind the entire class—even though they were not certified. For example, the court rejected a limitation period argument advanced by the defendants that was based on when the entire claim was filed.

As a result, the second hearing was effectively both a second common issues trial and an individual trial for three class members. It demonstrates the procedural flexibility courts have to ensure that class actions proceed efficiently.

 

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