On October 1, 2019 the first-ever class action legal clinic was launched in the City of Windsor through the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law. While most law schools offer some form of legal clinic to service their community, the Class Action Clinic is the first of its kind dedicated to providing legal support and advice to class members in Windsor and beyond.
Many lawyers regularly field calls from potential and current class members with inquiries about class actions. Questions range from whether that individual is part of the class, how to opt-out of the action, and possible concerns regarding a potential settlement. While class counsel should always make itself available to answer these types of inquiries, many class members have minimal contact, if any, with class counsel and rely on the website regarding the action for information about the class. The Class Action Clinic is a welcomed new resource for the general public who often do not know where to turn when trying to navigate the complex world of class actions.
The Class Action Clinic recognized a community that could be better serviced. Notably, the Clinic does not intend to initiate class action lawsuits rather the Clinic’s mandate is to help class members, people who are already part of a lawsuit, or think they might be part of one, understand their rights. The intake form provided on the Clinic’s website asks the prospective or current class member to choose among the following questions:
- I require assistance submitting a claim in an ongoing class action
- I received a notice about a class action and I require assistance understanding it
- I require assistance in understanding the status of a current class action
- I want to object to a proposed settlement
- I don’t want to participate in an ongoing class action
- I want to start a class action
- I want to support an ongoing class action
The Class Action Clinic received its start-up funding from the Law Foundation of Ontario. In addition to the legal services the Clinic plans to offer, it will maintain a database of class action lawsuits. The Law Commission of Ontario had been working on the creation of such a database that would be open and accessible to the public containing information on current and past class actions. The Clinic plans to take over management of this database from the Law Commission of Ontario.
The Class Action Clinic will be led by Windsor Law Professor Jasminka Kalajdzic. Professor Kalajdzic is no stranger to class actions. She is a well-known scholar in the area of class actions law co-authoring one of the leading class actions texts, “The Law of Class Actions in Canada” and more recently “Class Actions in Canada: The Promise and Reality of Access to Justice.”
Professor Kalajdzic is well-regarded as one of the authors behind the Law Commission of Ontario’s Class Actions Report released in July 2019. The Report is the first of its kind in Ontario undertaking an empirical study of class actions over the last 27 years. The Report includes 47 recommendations to reform the Class Proceedings Act, 1992 (the “CPA”) and the practice of class actions law in Ontario. The Report provides a helpful overview of the development of class actions law since the introduction of the CPA almost 30 years ago.
Class proceedings legislation has three goals: access to justice, judicial economy, and behaviour modification. The Class Action Clinic aptly falls in line with the first goal of class proceedings legislation, access to justice. More information about the Class Action Clinic can be found on its website.