In Ontario, class actions are governed under the Class Proceedings Act, 1992, S.O. 1992, c. 6, as amended. Please click here to review a copy of the Act.
A class action is a lawsuit commenced by one or more persons on his, her, or their own behalf, which seeks to include others who have suffered a similar harm at the hands of the same person, company or group.
A class action allows a group of people to have access to the court in situations where the case would be too expensive or too complex for one person to sue on his or her own.
A judge decides whether to permit the lawsuit to proceed as a class action and, if so, who will be included in the group or class.
A person who fits within the court's definition of the class is automatically included in the class action unless he or she follows the instructions the court gives on how to be excluded.
If the court permits the lawsuit to proceed as a class action, it will appoint one or more persons to act as the representative for the others in the class. The representative will instruct counsel on behalf of the class members.
All of the members of the class stand to benefit from a successful class action.
Counsel often agree to prosecute a class action on the basis that they will be paid for their services only if the class action is successful.
Individual class members are not personally liable to pay counsel for prosecuting the common issues in the class action nor are they liable to pay any costs if the judge does not permit the lawsuit to proceed as a class action or if the class action is not successful.