Class action proceedings are an efficient and effective way to advance a claim on behalf of several persons with a common issue. They are commonly used for the following types of claims, and much more:
- Products liability and mass torts
- Constitutional law and civil rights
- Contracts and negligent misrepresentation
- Securities law
- Environmental law
- Competition law
- Insurance/benefit entitlement
Class action proceedings are started by way of a Notice of Civil Claim filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, similar to any other Supreme Court action by an individual. Additionally, in British Columbia, they are governed by the rules set out in the Class Proceedings Act, [RSBC 1996] chapter 50. The action is started by a Plaintiff who seeks to represent a proposed class of persons with a common issue.
The most important step in the class proceeding is to the class certification hearing. At that hearing, the court will decide whether to appoint the plaintiff as a representative plaintiff and certify the class. The requirements for certifying the class are that:
- The pleadings disclose a cause of action;
- There is an identifiable class of 2 or more persons;
- The claims of the class members raise common issues, whether or not those common issues predominate over issues affecting only individual members;
- A class proceeding would be the preferable procedure for the fair and efficient resolution of the common issues; and
- There is a representative plaintiff who:
(i) would fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class,
(ii) has produced a plan for the proceeding that sets out a workable method of advancing the proceeding on behalf of the class and of notifying class members of the proceeding, and
(iii) does not have, on the common issues, an interest that is in conflict with the interests of other class members.
Once a class is certified, class members who are residents in British Columbia participate in the class action on an “opt-out” basis, whereas non-residents must actively “opt-in.” This means that if you are a member of a class, a BC resident, and the class is certified, you do not need to opt-in to the class action. The issues are litigated for you. If you are not resident in BC, you do need to opt-in.