Dispute Resolution - Class Actions
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Class proceedings are procedural mechanisms designed to facilitate and regulate the assertion of group claims. Almost all Canadian provinces have class proceedings legislation. In provinces without such legislation, representative actions may be brought at common law.
Canadian class action statutes are modeled closely on Rule 23 of the United States Federal Court Rules of Civil Procedure, which, together with its state counterparts, governs class action litigation in the United States. Unlike ordinary actions, a proceeding commenced on behalf of a class may be litigated as a class action only if it is judicially approved or “certified.” Generally, the bar for certification in Canada is lower than in the United States.
In Canada, common targets of class actions include product manufacturers, insurers, employers, companies in the investment and financial industries and governments. Class actions may involve allegations of product liability, misrepresentation, breaches of consumer and employment laws, competition law (e.g. antitrust) breaches, securities fraud and breaches of public law.
Class actions are becoming an increasingly prominent aspect of business litigation in Canada. Businesses may benefit from the fact that individual damage awards tend to be lower in Canada than in the United States. In addition, the availability of punitive damages is limited in Canada.