The Superior Court of Justice in Ontario recently amended its Provincial Practice Direction to adopt the Canadian Bar Association’s revised Canadian Judicial Protocol for the Management of Multi-Jurisdictional Class Actions and the Provision of Class Action Notice.
Under the new requirements, plaintiff’s counsel must post the pleadings in their class action on the Canadian Bar Association’s National Class Action Database prior to the first court attendance and confirm that they have done so at that attendance. The National Class Action Database is an online database maintained by the Canadian Bar Association. It is accessible by anyone with an internet connection. The database allows the user to conduct a keyword search for class actions by province, subject, or year. The results will tell the user the date the proceeding was commenced, the subject matter of the proceeding, the title of the proceeding, whether the proceeding has been certified or not, and provide a description of the proposed class.
The new amendments require plaintiff’s counsel to make their pleadings accessible on the database. That means in addition to the written descriptive information about the class action, a downloadable link will appear so that users seeking more information about the class action will have access to the plaintiff’s pleadings. This will allow for greater transparency for anyone looking to join the class, or for prospective counsel considering commencing a similar proceeding in other provinces.
Typically plaintiff’s counsel provides information about the potential class action, and a copy of the pleadings on its firm website. This could lead to someone looking for more information to visit multiple firm websites before finding the information they require. By requiring plaintiff’s counsel to utilize the centralized database, access to information will be easier for counsel, prospective class members, and anyone looking for more information on the action.
In addition, under the new requirements, both the plaintiff’s counsel and the defendant’s counsel, shall advise the court of any other action they are aware of and the status of each action. The plaintiff’s counsel must compile a notification list setting out the names of all known counsel and judges in any action, together with their contact information.
These amendments provide much needed transparency and accountability in class proceedings. Under these new requirements, plaintiff’s counsel is required to thoroughly investigate the claim, including looking for any other similar claims commenced across the country before proceeding to certification. These amendments, will allow both counsel, and the case management judge overseeing the proceeding, to anticipate duplicative proceedings which may necessitate motions for a stay of one of the actions, and carriage disputes between multiple counsels seeking to be class counsel. By requiring plaintiff’s counsel to do its due diligence before certification, the courts may reduce unnecessary procedural delay common to class actions.
The new requirements for parties begin on June 1, 2019. The full text of the amendments can be viewed online.