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When a class member learns that they are part of a class action, they often wonder what that means in terms of compensation.

Class actions often deal with complex issues, and it can take many years for the action to be resolved. When the action is resolved by way of settlement or monetary judgment in favour of the plaintiff, those funds are usually distributed directly to eligible class members. As with the contested litigation, the distribution of funds can be a complex task that may take multiple years to complete.

The distribution protocol

Typically, class counsel develops a protocol for the distribution of settlement funds to class members. Depending on the type and complexity of the action, experts may be engaged to help design the distribution protocol. The distribution protocol governs who may claim for funds, what the requirements are for a claim, and the relevant deadlines. The distribution protocol must be court-approved.

Details about the proposed distribution are typically disseminated in a notice to class members. If you received a notice about a class action distribution and you disagree with the proposed distribution, it is important that you raise your objection by the deadline stated in the notice so that your objections can be put before the court at the approval hearing. If you have any questions about this process, you should contact class counsel.

The claims administrator

After a distribution protocol is approved, the settlement funds are then typically distributed to settlement class members by a third party appointed by the court. The third party, known as a “claims administrator” oversees the claims process and distributes funds in accordance with the distribution protocol. For this reason, you should not be surprised if you receive communications from this third party rather than class counsel.

A further notice will be disseminated with information about how to file a claim. It is important that you follow the directions and file a timely claim. Late claims may not be permitted.

Documentation

Usually proof of purchase or some other documentation is required to file a claim. The type of documentation required varies based on the nature of the allegations.

If the case involves personal injury, you should:

  • Keep a record of medical expenses incurred — appointments not covered by your provincial health care provider, prescriptions, medical devices, etc.
  • Keep a record of all medical treatments, including the names and contact information of the health care provider (doctor, surgeon, physiotherapist etc.).
  • If possible, keep a journal of symptoms and note down any times when you are unable to attend work or school as a result of your symptoms.
  • Contact your health care providers to obtain relevant medical or pharmacy records.  Class Counsel may be able to assist with this process.

If you are a family member of the class member in a case concerning personal injury, you should keep a record of:

  • Any expenses reasonably incurred for the benefit of the class member.
  • Travel expenses incurred in visiting the class member during his or her treatment or recovery.
  • Any services provided for the class member as a result of the injury (i.e., nursing, housekeeping).
  • If the class member is deceased, any funeral expenses reasonably incurred.

In some cases, no proof of purchase is required. These are often cases where the defendant has already provided information to the claims administrator to allow them to assess claims. Alternatively, some distributions permit nominal payments (usually around $20) to be made to consumers without proof of payment.

In some rare cases, for example where distribution to individual class members is impracticable, money may be distributed cy pres. These are distributions to charities that are meant to indirectly benefit class members. To learn more about cy pres distributions, read our posts titled Cy-prés distributions – Honouring “as close as possible” and Cy Pres Settlements (Or, How Charities Can Benefit From Class Actions).

Takeaways:

  • Class action timelines are long – it may take several years before compensation, if any, occurs.
  • Maintain all relevant documentation.
  • Keep a look out for notices and follow the directions in the notice.

If in doubt, contact class counsel or the claims administrator for assistance.

Siskinds Class Action Team has extensive experience handling complex actions in a wide range of areas, including pharmaceutical and medical devices, consumer protection, securities, price-fixing, environmental, and human rights and institutional abuse. If you have been the victim of a large-scale wrong, please call 1-800-461-6166 for a free consultation, and view a list of our current class actions.

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