Common Questions of Law or Fact in Class Action Lawsuits

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Class action lawsuits in Canada often involve squaring off against big corporations or established institutions with reputations to defend and the financial resources to do so aggressively. However, when a class action lawsuit succeeds, compensation for the class members isn’t the only positive outcome. The lawsuit could also help prevent future injustices by bringing about systemic change.

When pursuing legal action on behalf of multiple plaintiffs, there are certain requirements that must be met before the matter can be certified as a class action. This type of litigation is complex, and each province and territory (except Prince Edward Island) has its own rules and procedures. In British Columbia and other areas of Canada, one criterion for certification is that there are common questions of law or fact among the class members.

To better understand if a claim qualifies for certification, we will define and explain common questions of law or fact. Then, we will discuss how a class action lawsuit in Canada gets started, including the other criteria for certification.

Class action litigation is a highly specialized field of law. Klein Lawyers is recognized as one of Canada’s leading class action law firms. In fact, David Klein was the first lawyer to have a class action lawsuit certified in British Columbia. If you believe you have a class action lawsuit in Canada and would like to discuss referring a case or entering into a partnership, call us at (604) 874-7171.

What Is a Question of Law?

A question of law relates to the interpretation and/or application of an established law or statute. In other words, what is the law that applies to the claim, and how does it apply in this case? The legal principles involved are not unique to this case; they can be applied to other cases.

What Is a Question of Fact?

A question of fact relates to the circumstances of the case: what took place between the parties involved, the nature of the injuries, what caused the injuries, the damages sought, etc. Questions of fact will be specific to the case and not applicable in other cases.

What Are Common Questions of Law or Fact?

Having common questions of law or fact in a class action lawsuit means precisely what it says: The class members’ claims all contain the same questions of law and the same questions of fact. This is vital. If the potential class members do not have common questions or issues of both law and fact, their claims will have to be pursued individually.

Read More: How Is a Class Action Lawsuit Different from a ‘Mass Tort’?

How Does a Class Action Lawsuit Get Started?

What Is a Class Action Lawsuit in Canada?

A class action lawsuit is a civil action filed by one person on behalf of a class of people who have suffered injury or loss due to the negligence or other wrongdoing of the same defendant(s). When the underlying cause of the plaintiffs’ injuries or losses is the same, the individual claims can be combined into a single class action.

Class action litigation reduces the time, cost, and effort it would take for multiple plaintiffs to bring their claims against the defendant(s). For those plaintiffs who might not have the resources to bring a claim on their own, this is an opportunity to receive justice.

Read More: Understanding Class Actions in Canada

What Is the Class Action Process?

Many class action lawsuits in Canada begin when a lawyer identifies similar injuries amongst their clients. The lawyer might then research the underlying cause of these injuries or losses and whether it resulted from negligence on the part of the same defendant(s).

If it holds true that multiple plaintiffs suffered similar injuries or losses due to the negligence of the same defendant(s), it would be fitting to file a lawsuit and apply to the court for certification as a class action.

Preparation for Certification

Before applying for certification, certain elements of the claim must be established:

Identifying the Class

Establish the defining characteristics of the group of individuals affected. Potential factors shared by all plaintiffs include:

  • Similar injuries or damages
  • Similar/same underlying cause of injuries or losses caused by the same defendant(s)
  • Same time period during which the injury or loss occurred
  • Choosing a Representative Plaintiff

A representative plaintiff is the person who will be appointed by the Court to advance the lawsuit on behalf of the class.

Filing a Statement of Claim

In Canada, the document filed to start a class action lawsuit is called the Statement of Claim, Notice of Civil Claim, or Application for Authorization, depending on the province in which the lawsuit is filed. The facts of the case must be set out in detail, along with the compensation or relief sought from the defendant(s).

Applying for Certification

The legal process by which a claim becomes a class action is called certification. During this process, the court will decide if the lawsuit meets certain criteria. If the criteria are met, the claim will be certified and proceed as a class action.

Criteria for Certification

In most provinces, the criteria for certification are as follows:

  • There must be a lawful claim against the defendant(s) (called a “cause of action”) 
  • A specific, identifiable class of two or more persons must be established
  • There must be common questions of law or fact shared by the class members
  • The class must have an appointed and appropriate representative plaintiff
  • A class action must be the preferable method of resolving the claim

If the court is satisfied that the materials submitted by the plaintiffs support the motion, the lawsuit will be certified as a class action.

If a claim is not certified as a class action, the plaintiffs will need to pursue individual claims. Though these claims may still involve the injuries of many individuals due to the same defendant, they involve distinct questions of law or fact amongst the plaintiffs.

Read More: How to File a Class Action Lawsuit

Contact Our Lawyers About Your Class Action Lawsuit in Canada

Klein Lawyers is experienced, knowledgeable, and equipped to go up against the largest corporations and institutions in Canada. We are a national leader in advocating for the victims of corporate and institutional wrongdoing. As a result of our work, we also protect future victims from suffering the same injuries or losses.

If you believe there may be others who have been physically or economically injured by the same negligent company that injured you, contact Klein Lawyers for a FREE Consultation and assessment.

If you are an attorney who has seen a pattern of injuries among your clients, it may be worth determining whether the claims could be certified as a class action. Our lawyers can review the case, determine if class litigation is appropriate, and discuss a potential partnership or referral agreement.