The Class Action Clinic’s central mission is to serve the needs of class members across Canada. It is the first not-for-profit organization designed to provide class members summary advice, assistance with filing claims in settlement distribution processes, and representation in court proceedings. The Clinic is also dedicated to creating greater awareness about class actions, through public education, outreach, and research. The Clinic will maintain a central class action repository of Ontario cases, carrying on the work of the Law Commission of Ontario once it has completed construction of the database. Although the Clinic does not initiate or conduct class actions, we can provide referrals to class action firms.
Legal Information & Advice
Members of the public often have a vague idea that they may be covered by a class action but do not know what to do to ‘be a part of it’. In fact, class members usually need to do nothing to participate formally in the action, but most people, including lawyers who do not practice class action law, are unfamiliar with Ontario’s opt-out system. Class members may have received a court notice or other correspondence in the mail confirming they are part of a class action, but need assistance understanding the information. Still others may have been notified that a class action has settled, and they need help figuring out what the settlement means for them. All of these legal questions can be addressed by the Class Action Clinic’s team of law students and review counsel. Such assistance will reduce the possibility that a class member misses a deadline or fails to take steps to protect their interests in the litigation. Review counsel and law students will, in the appropriate case, represent class members in court.
It is quite common for approved settlements and judgments to include a claims procedure. Class members receive notices and then must complete claims forms and/or provide documents or other information to a claims administrator who determines the class member’s eligibility. These are sometimes complex processes, and class members often need assistance completing the forms. In certain cases, traditional legal clinics have provided support; poverty law clinics can now refer the work to or rely on the Class Action Clinic for class action expertise, so that they can devote scarce resources to traditional clinic work. In other cases, class members have hired lawyers or “form-fillers” to assist them, but have been mistreated or financially exploited. The Clinic will be an additional resource to class members who require assistance completing claims forms and providing the necessary documents to best support their claims.
Class Action Database
There have been repeated calls for empirical data about class actions, from both academics, judges and the bar. It is a call supported by all stakeholders interviewed for the Law Commission of Ontario’s (LCO) Class Action Project. The LCO is constructing a database that will be free to the public, and that will contain essential information about past and current class actions, including the name of parties, pleaded causes of action, counsel information, and outcomes. The LCO intends to transfer the database to Windsor Law and the Class Action Clinic will maintain it going forward. Information about new class actions will be available on the database and will serve as a form of notice to potential class members, in addition to providing valuable information to academics, lawyers and judges.