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This paper answers the question – why should you pay attention to a class action notice. To answer this question, it is necessary to provide some background regarding the content and purpose of class action notices.

Introduction

This paper answers the question – why should you pay attention to a class action notice. To answer this question, it is necessary to provide some background regarding the content and purpose of class action notices.

What is a class action?

A class action is a type of litigation where the claims of many people who are similarly situated are resolved in a single proceeding. Class actions can arise out of many different circumstances, including price-fixing conspiracies, defective products, securities, employment, environmental, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices.

The term “class members” is used to describe people who are affected by a class action.

What is the purpose of a class action notice?

The purpose of a class action notice is to give possible class members notice of major steps in the litigation, including:

  • Notice of certification. Certification means that the court has held that class members’ claims can be properly prosecuted as a class proceeding. The notice of certification will state who is included in the certified class action and provide instructions for “opting out” or excluding yourself from the class action. If you do not opt out, you will be bound by the results of the class action and will not be permitted to pursue individual claims in respect of the matters at issue. For class actions commenced in British Columbia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick, non-residents must “opt-in” to be included in the class action. If you do not optin, you will not be able to participate in the class action.
  • Notice of settlement. Class action settlements are subject to court approval. The notice of settlement will summarize the fundamental terms of the settlement. The notice of settlement will advise of your rights to make oral or written submissions to the court regarding the settlement.
  • Notice of resolution of the common issues trial. This notice advises of the outcome of the common issues trial.
  • Notice of the claims process. This notice provides instructions on how to file a claim form in order to participate in a class action settlement or court award. The notice will also provide a deadline by which date claim forms must be filed. If you do not file a claim form by this deadline, you could be precluded from participating in the settlement or court award.

In some circumstances, the notices might overlap. For example, a notice of settlement might include information about certification for settlement purposes and/or the claims process.

Where is a class action notice published?

Where the class action notice is published will depend on the scope of the class action, the matters in issue and the value of the claims at issue. For example, in an environmental case, where the impact is localized, the class action notice program will be more targeted geographically. Where the class action is national in scope, the notice
program will be implemented across Canada.

The following is a sample of where class action notices might be disseminated:

  • Publication in national and regional newspapers.
  • Publication in industry magazines.
  • Distribution to industry associations.
  • Direct mailings to persons involved in the relevant industry. For example, in a defective plumbing products case, the class action notice might be sent to large plumbing companies.
  • Posted online on the website of counsel acting for the class. All notices published by Siskinds LLP are posted on its website (www.classaction.ca).
  • Web advertizing.
  • Television advertizing.

Additionally, where information is available about persons who are likely affected by the class action, a direct mailing will be sent to such persons. For example, in some circumstances, defendants are required to either send notice to their affected customers or produce the names and addresses of their affected customers for the purposes of giving notice. In securities cases, brokerage firms are sometimes asked to provide notice to their clients who purchased the relevant shares.

Why you should pay attention to a class action notice

As explained above, class action notices include information about your legal rights and your options with respect to the class action. Class action notices also include important deadlines by which to act. If you miss those deadlines, you might be precluded from participating in any settlement or court award and forego any compensation that you might have been entitled to if you acted in a timely manner. The amounts at issue for individual class members will range depending on the case, but can be significant. For example, in class actions relating to price-fixing, securities, pharmaceuticals or medical devices it is not uncommon for individual class members to receive tens of thousands of dollars.

If you are uncertain whether you are affected by a class action notice, you should contact counsel at the addresses listed in the notice. For information about class actions that Siskinds LLP is involved with, please visit our website at www.classaction.ca. If you have questions about your legal rights please contact Siskinds and ask to speak to
Linda Visser at 519-672-2121.

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