Potential class action exposure in Canada in the wake of COVID-19 – Part 2

Last month we wrote about some of the proposed class actions in the United States in the wake of COVID-19. As we noted then, class actions in the United States create a risk of “copycat” claims in Canada—and there is always a risk of similar claims in both jurisdictions. Far more proposed class actions related to COVID-19 have been filed in the United States since our last update. Many relate to consumer protection issues and consumer contracts—for example:

  1. several class actions complaints have been filed against businesses—including gyms and amusement parks—that allegedly continued to charge monthly fees to consumers while their facilities are closed in response to COVID-19;
  2. a class action complaint has been filed in relation to cancelled events where tickets were allegedly not refunded; and
  3. class action complaints have been filed against several universities for allegedly not refunding certain amounts after campuses were closed or services were suspended;

Proposed class actions have also been filed by businesses and others against governments and related entities based on their responses to COVID-19. For example:

  1. employees of the US government have filed a class action complaint seeking hazard pay for working in close proximity to individuals or objects infected with COVID-19;
  2. a business in Pennsylvania has filed a class action complaint alleging that orders closing non-essential businesses are unconstitutional; and
  3. a class action complaint has been filed against the People’s Republic of China and related entities alleging a negligent response to the virus.

These examples demonstrate the ongoing risks class actions to businesses (and governments) as they respond to COVID-19. In particular, they suggest that consumer protection claims may follow when businesses do not offer refunds for services they cannot provide due to COVID-19. Similar class actions may be filed in Canada.

For more information about the content of this update, please contact one of the authors, and for up-to-date information on COVID-19 and McCarthy Tétrault’s perspective on the legal issues it presents, please visit our dedicated hub here.

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