A class action is a lawsuit that is brought by one or more persons on behalf of a larger group of people whose claims share common legal and/or factual issues. Together, these people form a “class” and are referred to as “class members.”
In Ontario and most other provinces,1 class actions operate on an “opt-out” basis. This means that class members are automatically included in the action unless they take active steps to opt-out (i.e., exclude themselves) from the action.
If you are a class member and you do not opt-out of the class action (i.e., you do nothing) you may be eligible to receive money from court judgments or settlements achieved in the class action. However, you will also be bound by any settlements or court orders in the action and you will not be able to start your own case against the defendants regarding issues in the class action.
As a class member, you may eventually be required to take action. For example, if any settlements or court judgments are awarded, you will likely be required to complete claim form to apply for settlement funds. To make sure that you are aware of relevant deadlines and requirements, you should register with class counsel to receive updates about the litigation. You should also maintain relevant records to assist you with your claim.
What if I don’t want to participate?
If you opt-out of a class action, you will not be eligible to receive any money or other benefits from the class action; however, you will be able to start your own case against the defendants in relation to the claims at issue in the class action. Class members are usually given only one opportunity to opt-out of the class action. The opportunity to opt-out is provided at the time the case is certified. If you do not opt-out of the action before the opt-out deadline, you will be included in the action.
In most circumstances, you would only want to opt-out if you intend on bringing your own legal proceeding regarding the matters at issue. Often, this will be cost prohibitive. If you are considering opting out of a class action, you should consult with the lawyers for the class and/or your own lawyer.
If you think that you are affected by a class action and you want to participate, you don’t need to do anything. However, you should register with class counsel to receive updates about the action. Class counsel can then advise you if there are any steps you need to complete. You should also maintain any relevant records in case you need them to file a claim.
If you do not want to participate in a class action, you can opt-out of the class action. Class members are usually given only one opportunity to opt-out and must indicate their intention to opt-out before the deadline. To ensure that you are aware of relevant deadlines and opt-out procedures, you should contact class counsel.
1 In Newfoundland and New Brunswick, non-residents must opt into a proceeding.