How to Join a Class Action Lawsuit

Before a judge allows your case to move forward as a class action, you will need to prove that:

  • your claim(s) give rise to at least one issue of law or fact;

  • there is an identifiable class of two or more persons that would be represented by the representative plaintiff

  • their claims arise out of similar circumstances against the same defendant

Ontario is an opt-out jurisdiction. This means that class members are automatically included in the lawsuit unless they choose to opt-out.

How Do People Join a Class Action?

In Ontario, class actions operate on an ‘opt-out’ basis. This means that when the representative plaintiff(s) define the group, the group members might not initially know about the claim.

Once the representative plaintiff has defined the issues in the case, the court will make an order requiring the publication of a notice to bring the case to the attention of all group members. The notice will:

  • outline the particular legal claim that you are making; and

  • provide group members with a deadline to remove themselves from the claim if they do not want to be a part of it.

Group members who do not respond to the notice will: 

  • continue to be represented in the class action as a class member; and 

  • be bound by the outcome of the case. 

This means that they stand to gain from any settlement or judgement. However, they will be unable to launch their own proceedings relating to the same issues.

Class Action in Ontario At A Glance

In Ontario, Class Action is governed by the Class Proceedings Act, 1992. Pursuant to s. 5(1) of the Class Proceedings Act, 1992, the court shall certify a proceeding as a class proceeding if: (1) the pleadings disclose a cause of action; (2) there is an identifiable class of two or more persons that would be represented by the representative plaintiff or defendant; (3) the claims or defences of the class members raise common issues of fact or law; (4) a class proceeding would be the preferable procedure; and (5) there is a representative plaintiff or defendant who would adequately represent the interests of the class without conflict of interest and there is a workable litigation plan.

An action could either start as an employment law class proceeding by seeking a leave from Court in obtaining an Order for Certification from the Court certifying it as a class action. An employment law class action case could also be initiated as an individual action and be amended into a class proceeding by amending the statement of claim. During the Certification hearing, the Court will consider whether common employment law issues are raised, whether an employment law class action is preferable and whether there is a suitable representative plaintiff who can fairly and adequately represent the interests of the class, whom have no conflict of interest with other class members, and have a plan for pursuing the action and for notifying other class members.

After a judge certifies a class action lawsuit, Class Members are contacted. The defendant, the plaintiffs, and the court each have a responsibility to identify Class Members and make a “reasonable effort” to contact them, notifying them that they are being included in a class action lawsuit.

In most class actions, you need not do anything to join the lawsuit. Ontario is an opt-out jurisdiction. This means that class members (those whose legal interests are represented by the suit) are automatically included in the lawsuit unless they choose to opt-out, or decline to participate, in the case.

How Will I Know If I'm Covered by a Class Action?

If a class action has already been filed, you may receive a class action notice such as in the mail stating that your legal rights may be affected by a lawsuit. You should carefully read the class action notice.

If your legal rights are affected by a class action, you usually will only need to get involved once the case settles. In most cases, you will need to submit a claim, either online or through the mail, to receive your portion of the settlement or judgment. Information on how to do so will be found in the class notice that you will receive in the mail.

If you received a class action notice in the mail, this simply means that your legal rights may be affected by a lawsuit that was recently filed or settled. Notices are sent to people whose rights could be affected by a class action. Notices are typically sent after a case has settled and will provide instructions on how to claim part of the settlement.

Class Action FAQs

Class Action FAQs:

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