Class Actions


Lavery has been handling class actions for over 30 years. The firm sets itself apart by its multidisciplinary approach, the breadth of its expertise and its thorough understanding of the reality in which its clients carry on business. Our team is often solicited for major cases involving complex issues. We know how to act quickly in response to the media’s interest in any eventual proceedings. We don’t just provide legal services; we provide strategic advice tailored to our client’s needs ensuring that the integrity of its business is properly defended.

Our team is equipped with a solid grasp of the Quebec class action regime. We have access to an extensive network of partners that allows us to act in a concerted fashion globally and remain up to date on the latest trends in class actions. Lavery’s expertise in this field is recommended by the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory.

Lavery acts both preventively and in defense of your interests. Our team can of course help defend your rights before the courts, but it can also advise you with respect to drafting contracts, making representations to the public, devising best practices regarding governance and business integrity or complying with the relevant regulatory framework, to minimize vulnerability to class actions.

We are:

  • Seasoned lawyers who regularly handle class actions and provide strategic advice tailored to your sector of activities.
  • A dedicated team where the group as well as several individual members are recommended in the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory and The Best Lawyers in Canada, for multi-jurisdictional and cross-border class actions.
  • Strategically located in four offices across the province of Quebec, with an advanced understanding of local particularities and issues.

Our vision

To mobilize an agile and committed team that works both before and after legal proceedings are instituted. This is why our professionals:

  • Advise to prevent risks that might open the door to class actions;
  • Act proactively so that they are ready to deploy an effective defence strategy as soon as an action is instituted, whether before the courts, in the media, or in relation to government bodies;
  • Quickly determine the resources needed to present an effective defence at every stage (preliminary exceptions, authorization, on the merits, recovery, settlement);
  • Propose creative and innovative solutions tailored to the specific needs of your circumstances;
  • Have a thorough knowledge of the particularities of the Quebec class action regime and its developments;
  • Benefit from an excellent network throughout Canada and internationally so that they can coordinate the defence of national or transnational class actions;
  • Optimize information, document, and digital data management to ensure the effective and beneficial control and use  of the evidence;
  • Minimize the impact of a class action on your business, in particular with respect to issue and crisis management;
  • Offer guidance to management on business integrity issues;
  • Work with you for a successful outcome, as quickly as possible;

Act in a concerted manner with a depth of consideration unparalleled in the market.

Our team is multi-talented and well-versed in several fields of law and can support clients in a wide range of areas and industries included but not limited to:

  • Agri-food and food products
  • Competition law
  • Consumer law
  • Directors & Officers Liability
  • Environment
  • Financial products and services
  • Health law and pharmaceutical law
  • Insurance
  • Labour law and pension plans
  • Liability for historic social wrongs
  • Privacy and defamation
  • Product liability
  • Securities law

Representative mandates

For a list of our representative mandates, please click here.

Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory

  1. Class actions to watch in 2024

    Quebec is a fertile ground for class actions, with over 550 active cases and between 50 to 100 applications for authorization filed each year. While 2023 marked the fifth anniversary of the “new” class action division: what is there to watch in 2024? Read on to find out. Opioids and the State: Sanis Health v. British Columbia Can a state be a plaintiff to a class action? Can it be the plaintiff to a class action in another state? Can it be a class member in another state? In 2018, British Columbia adopted the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act1 [ORA] allowing the government to institute class action proceedings regarding “opioid-related wrongs.” This was modelled after an earlier legislation targeting “tobacco-related wrongs,”2 the constitutionality of which had been upheld by the Supreme Court.3 The ORA, however, allowed not only British Columbia to institute such proceedings, but also, provided it had commenced such an action, to bring it forward “on behalf of a class consisting of one or more of the governments of Canada and the provinces or territories of Canada.”4 The constitutionality of this provision was challenged, without success in the first instance5 and on appeal.6 Though the Court of Appeal upheld the validity of the provision, it did characterize it as “a bold step, if not an experiment, in bringing government-led class litigation as close as possible to truly “national” proceedings in Canada’s federal structure.”7 This boldness snowballed: Similar laws have been adopted throughout Canada.8 Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court of Canada has granted leave.9 A hearing should be scheduled in 2024. Relatedly, in Quebec, the parties are awaiting judgment on an application for authorization to institute a class action against several pharmaceutical companies10 relating to the manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sale of opioids. In this case, the plaintiff is seeking to represent all persons in Quebec who suffer, or has suffered, from opioid use disorder following the use of prescription opioids since 1996. It is now settled law that one person may sue several defendants in a single action regarding an allegedly common practice even if that person does not have a direct cause of action against each defendant, provided that the proposed representative is otherwise able to adequately represent the members who do.11 It remains to be seen whether the representative plaintiff put forward in this case will be able to fulfill his role against approximately 20 companies having marketed more than 150 different products over more than 25 years. Jurisdiction over foreign defendants Are allegations sufficient to establish the jurisdiction of Quebec authorities over foreign defendants that are distinct from their Quebec subsidiaries?12 And if so, how should the geographical limits of the putative class members be defined? In the Bourgeois case, the proposed representative, a Quebec resident, is seeking authorization to institute a class action against several companies that develop and market video games with a “loot box” mechanism, which he claims constitutes a form of illegal gaming. Putative class members are not limited to Quebec residents such as himself. Moreover, many of the respondents are foreign companies, and some have no establishment in Quebec. Some of these foreign entities filed a declinatory exception, which the court dismissed. An appeal was filed, which includes arguments that the dismissal of the declinatory exception unduly broadened the definition of “establishment” within the meaning of article 3148 C.C.Q. Will the Court of Appeal give guidelines for determining whether such an issue should be addressed at the authorization stage? We should know soon as the Court of Appeal is expected to render judgment on this matter within the coming months. The appeal was heard on February 2, 2024. In 2023, the Quebec Court of Appeal had closed the door on the use of the guiding principles of procedure to broaden the scope of its jurisdiction.13 Earlier in the year, the British Columbia Court of Appeal had ruled that it had no jurisdiction over a class action relating to misrepresentations made outside its territory for lack of a “real and substantial connection”,14 and the Ontario Superior Court had followed suit.15 Clearly, class action law and private international law continue to cross paths, if not swords. More than 10 years later16 The majority of class actions are settled before they reach the merits. The same cannot be said for the case involving the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, in which the Court of Appeal is slated to hear the case on liability of certain defendant this year. On July 6, 2013, at 1:14 a.m., downtown Lac-Mégantic was set ablaze after a tank car train derailed. Images of the derailment were broadcast around the world. A class action ensued, filed on July 15, 2013. Authorized on June 8, 2015,17 it was joined with two civil suits, one instituted by the Attorney General of Québec [translation] “for all of the damages suffered by the Quebec State as a result of the tragedy,” estimated at over $231,000,000, and the other by a group of insurers.18 These proceedings were also split in order to first address the liability of the defendants Montreal, Maine & Atlantic [MMA] and Canadian Pacific [CP].19 On December 14, 2022, after a 63-day trial, spanning nine months, the Superior Court did not hold CP liable for the derailment, finding only MMA liable.20 Appeals were filed by both sides in January 2023, suspending the continuation of the trial for the remainder of the case.21 As the appeal materials were filed in the fall of 2023, there should be a hearing in 2024. Class counsel or representative’s counsel?22 Are the lawyers of the representative also those of the class? A trial judgment suggests that they should be considered so if it is in the interest of the class. The Court of Appeal will be ruling on this issue. The Court of Appeal may be called on to rule on this recurrent point of contention between lawyers who act mainly for the plaintiffs and those who act mainly for the defendants: does class counsel have a direct relationship with the members of the class, or is their legal relationship thereto contingent on the relationship they have with the representative? Labour law in Canada’s major junior hockey leagues gives the case its backdrop. Around 2020, the parties to three certified class actions, one in Alberta, one in Ontario and one in Quebec,23 agreed to a settlement that included a release. The scope of said release was the stumbling block—the three courts involved refused to approve the transaction and sent the parties back to the drawing board.24 A new release under the same agreement was drawn up in 2023. It was signed by the two representatives of the Quebec class, Lukas Walter and Thomas Gobeil, on May 9 and June 5, 2023. A date was then set for approval. In a surprising turn of events, on June 14, 2023, Walter and Gobeil informed their lawyers that they no longer agreed to the amended transaction, and notices of revocation of mandate were sent out a few days before the scheduled hearing date. Class counsel, claiming the need to safeguard the interests of the class members, asked the Court to reject the notices of revocation.25 The text of article 576 C.C.P. is unequivocal: the court appoints the representative. It is also clear from case law that it is the representative plaintiff who mandates counsel, not the reverse.26 Because the representative plaintiff is entitled to the counsel of his or her choice, like any other litigant, Walter and Gobeil were in principle entitled to revoke the mandates of their lawyers, even though said lawyers had been involved from the outset of the case. The matter complexifies when one considers the interests of the class members, as the trial judge writes: [translation] “Who will act in the case and whom will they be representing?”27 Possibly to assuage both sides, she acknowledged the revocation of mandate, but confirmed that the lawyers would continue to represent the class, stating that they [translation] “must uphold their duty to represent the class and present the terms of the settlement agreement as amended for approval.”28 In other words, she considered that class counsel had a direct relationship with the class. Needless to say, the case was appealed. The hearing on leave to appeal took place on February 29, 2024. Price higher than advertised: where’s the harm? What burden is imposed on plaintiffs who wish to institute proceedings under section 224(c) of the Consumer Protection Act, prohibiting the practice of hidden charges or drip pricing? A trial judgment states that the mere finding of a prohibited practice is not sufficient to prove actual harm. For the first time in reported case law, the Court of Appeal will consider a judgment on the merits dealing with the application of article 224(c) of the Consumer Protection Act. In this case, Union des consommateurs claims that Air Canada, during the first stage of an online ticket purchase process, failed to indicate the amount of taxes, fees, charges and surcharges included in the final price charged, thereby violating applicable legislation. Union des consommateurs is seeking a reduction in the price paid by members of the class corresponding to the sum of the charges, as well as punitive damages of $10 million. The Superior Court found that Air Canada had indeed advertised a price lower than that ultimately charged to class members. This finding of fault, however, did not relieve the plaintiff of the burden of proving actual harm. Because Air Canada demonstrated that there were clearly visible warnings that the advertised prices did not include all of the fees charged, the Court concluded that the prohibited practice was not likely to influence the formation of the contract.29 Since no harm has been demonstrated, no compensatory damages were awarded. As for punitive damages, the evidence did not show that Air Canada had engaged in “conduct […] which display[ed] ignorance, carelessness or serious negligence”. Moreover, Air Canada had ceased engaging in the contentious practice before the class action was authorized. The appeal was lodged on December 28, 2022, and should be heard this year. The upcoming decision will have a significant impact on a number of ongoing class actions under section 224(c) CPA. The decision will certainly shed some interesting light on the required proof of actual harm and the impact of the prohibited practice on consumers’ purchasing decisions. Devaluation of taxi licenses Will the Superior Court find that by adopting the Act respecting remunerated passenger transportation by automobile,30 the Quebec government expropriated taxi owners without paying fair and reasonable compensation? From April 1 to 24, 2024, the Superior Court will hear a class action on the revenue decline in the taxi industry attributed to the arrival of Uber, an online transportation platform having transformed the urban travel landscape by connecting users with independent drivers via a mobile app. The class action was authorized in 2018.31 The representative, who holds a taxi license, represents a group of taxi drivers and owners. He alleges that his loss of income and the depreciation in the value of his permits were caused by the legislator’s authorization of Uber’s business activities. He argues that the exemption provided to Uber by the law relative to taxi permit fees and the non-regulation of fares for its drivers have enabled Uber to charge far lower fares than those that regulated taxi operators charge. In this case, it will be interesting to see whether the Superior Court will apply the foundations of expropriation law to the class, which establish that no expropriation can take place without compensation for property rights. Member participation and class counsel’s fee to impose conditions relating to class counsel’s fees Can the Court make the full payment of the plaintiff’s lawyer fees contingent on achieving a certain level of participation of members of the class, even though it has already held that the fees agreed to in the settlement agreement were reasonable? Following the authorization of a class action on the false or misleading use of the word “champagne” by an airline that rather served a sparkling wine,32 the parties agreed to a settlement awarding the class members a 7% discount on their next purchase to be made within the next three years, without any restrictions. The settlement also provided for the payment of $1,500,000 to the class counsel, the reimbursement of expert fees and an envelope of up to $20,000 to maximize the settlement’s visibility on social media, without affecting the 7% compensation offered to members. The judgment approving the settlement authorizes the immediate payment of $751,450 to class counsel but makes payment of the balance conditional on achieving a participation rate of 50% of members, or 469,398 claims.33 The plaintiff applied for and obtained leave to appeal the decision.34 He also applied for the revocation, rectification and clarification of the judgment, in particular on the grounds that, under article 593 C.C.P., final payment of professional fees cannot be made conditional on achieving a recovery rate, and that the 50% rate is excessive. Only the second ground of the application was allowed, and the 50% participation rate was reduced to 10%, or 93,880 claims.35 The plaintiff has appealed this second decision. The judgment granting him leave to do so has been joined to the two appeals,36 and the factums are slated to be submitted in 2024. A number of decisions have already suggested that there needs to be a correlation between the professional fees of class counsel and participation of members in the benefits negotiated for them.37 The Court of Appeal’s upcoming ruling is certain to have significant implications on future settlements, and it will provide an interesting perspective on the discretionary power of trial judges to impose conditions relating to plaintiffs’ lawyers’ fees. Greenwashing: can a class action help the environment? Will the Superior Court authorize a class action on a misrepresentation that certain bags are recyclable?38 Does consumer law provide an entry for asking the courts to address environmental concerns? In recent years, many businesses have adopted environmental, social and governance practices (better known by the acronym ESG), often specifically performance criteria in these areas. However, some observers question the sincerity of these actions and sometimes consider them to be public relations schemes rather than genuine efforts on the part of businesses to reduce their environmental footprint or improve their social impact. This context will make it interesting to follow the progress of a class action on misleading representations concerning bags, which a number of superstores present as “recyclable,” when in fact they are only reusable as they are discarded by recycling plants in Quebec. If this class action is authorized, it could pave the way for further similar actions. Businesses that have adopted ESG practices and have made their commitment public should pay attention to the outcome of this case. SBC 2018, c 35. Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, SBC 2000, c. 30. British Columbia v. Imperial Tobacco Ltd, 2005 SCC 49. Sandoz Canada Inc. v. British Columbia, 2023 BCCA 306, para. 2. British Columbia v. Apotex Inc., 2022 BCSC 2147. Sandoz Canada Inc. v. British Columbia, 2023 BCCA 306. Sandoz Canada Inc. v. British Columbia, 2023 BCCA 306, para. 3. Québec being the last one with the Opioid-related Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, SQ 2023, c 25, having been assented to and having come into force on November 2, 2023. Sanis Health Inc. v. British Columbia, SCC 40864 (November 9, 2023). Of the initial thirty-four defendants, a certain number agreed to settle out of court. Lavery, de Billy represents one of these defendants. Bank of Montreal v. Marcotte, 2014 SCC 55, para. 43. Bourgeois c. Electronics Arts Inc., 2023 QCCS 1011, leave to appeal granted: Electronics Arts Inc. c. Bourgeois, 2023 QCCA 826, only judge. Otsuka Pharmaceutical Company Limited c. Pohoresky, 2022 QCCA 1230, leave to appeal denied: SCC 40452 (May 25, 2023). Hershey Company v. Leaf, 2023 BCCA 264. Gebien v. Apotex Inc., 2023 ONSC 6792. Lavery, de Billy represented one of the defendants between 2013 and 2016. Ouellet c. Rail World inc., 2015 QCCS 2002, amended by Ouellet c. Canadian Pacific Railway Company, 2016 QCCS 5087. Ouellet c. Compagnie de chemin de fer Canadien Pacifique, 2017 QCCS 5674. Two other civil cases were suspended in the wake of these three cases, one by the same judgment, the other by 9020-1468 Québec inc. c. Canadian Pacific Railway Company, 2019 QCCS 366. Ouellet c. Compagnie de chemin de fer Canadien Pacifique, 2017 QCCS 5674. Ouellet c. Compagnie de chemin de fer Canadien Pacifique, 2022 QCCS 4643. Since June 30, 2023 article 211 C.C.P. prohibits the immediate appeal of a judgment rendered in a split proceeding that does not terminate the proceeding; there was therefore no reason to consider the consequences of possible asymmetry in res judicata in the case of a judgment that only partially puts an end to such a proceeding. Walter c. Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Inc., 2023 QCCS 3655. Walter v. Western Hockey league, 2017 ABQB 382; Berg v. Canadian Hockey League, 2017 ONSC 2608 and Walter c. Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Inc., 2019 QCCS 2334. Walter c. Western Hockey League, 2020 ABQB 631; Berg v. Canadian Hockey League, 2020 ONSC 6389 and Walter c. Ligue de hockey junior majeur du Québec Inc. 2020 QCCS 3724. Walter c. Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Inc., 2023 QCCS 3655, para. 13. Deraspe c. Zinc électrolytique du Canada ltée, 2018 QCCA 256, paras. 38 et s. Walter c. Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Inc., 2023 QCCS 3655, para. 23. Walter c. Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Inc., 2023 QCCS 3655, para. 24. Union des consommateurs c. Air Canada, 2022 QCCS 4254, para. 113, quoting to Richard v. Time Inc., 2012 SCC 8, para. 125. Act respecting remunerated passenger transportation by automobile, CQLR c. T-11.2. Metellus c. Procureure générale du Québec, 2018 QCCS 4626. Macduff c. Vacances Sunwing inc., 2018 QCCS 1510. MacDuff c. Vacances Sunwing inc., 2023 QCCS 343. MacDuff c. Vacances Sunwing inc.,2023 QCCA 476, only judge. MacDuff c. Vacances Sunwing inc., 2023 QCCS 4125. MacDuff c. Vacances Sunwing inc., 2024 QCCA 61, only judge. E.g., Daunais c. Honda Canada inc., 2022 QCCS 2485, paras. 132–133. Cohen c. Dollarama et al., SC 500-06-001200-225.

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  2. Loss of personal information: The Superior Court dismisses a class action

    On March 26, 2021, the Superior Court rendered a decision dismissing a class action against the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (“IIROC”) on the loss of personal information of thousands of Canadian investors.1 The lack of evidence of compensable injury and IIROC’s diligent behaviour are the main reasons for the dismissal of the class action. The Facts On February 22, 2013, an inspector working for IIROC forgot his laptop computer in a public place. The computer, which contained the personal information of approximately 50,000 Canadians, was never found. The information had originally been collected by various securities brokers who were under inspection by IIROC. Mr. Lamoureux, whose personal information was on the computer, brought a class action on behalf of all persons whose personal information was lost in the incident. He claimed compensatory damages for the stress, anxiety and worries associated with the loss of personal information, as well as compensation for the injury associated with the identity theft or attempted identity theft of members. He also claimed punitive damages for unlawful and intentional infringement of the right to privacy protected by the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. On this point, the members claimed that IIROC had been reckless and had delayed in notifying affected persons and brokers, as well as relevant authorities. Decision The class action is dismissed in its entirety. Compensatory damages The Superior Court started by acknowledging IIROC’s admission that it was at fault for the loss of the computer, and that the computer was not encrypted as it should have been to comply with IIROC policies. With respect to compensatory damages, the Court reiterated the principle according to which the existence of fault does not presume the existence of injury; each case must be analyzed on the basis of the evidence.2 In this case, the injury alleged by the members can be summarized as follows: They suffered worry, anger, stress and anxiety about the incident. They were forced to monitor their financial accounts, and in particular their credit cards and bank accounts. They were inconvenienced and wasted time in having to deal with credit agencies and ensuring that their personal information was protected. They felt shame and suffered delays caused by identity checks on their credit applications attributable to flags on their files. In its analysis, the Court held that, apart from the fact that the members were generally troubled by the loss of their personal information, there was no evidence of any particular and significant difficulties related to their mental state. Relying on Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada Ltd.,3 the Court reiterated that “the law does not recognize upset, disgust, anxiety, agitation or other mental states that fall short of injury.” If the injury is not serious and prolonged, and is limited to ordinary discomforts and fears that are inherent to life in society, it does not constitute compensable injury. In this case, the Court found that the negative feelings experienced as a result of the loss of personal information did not rise above the level of ordinary discomforts, anxieties and fears that people living in society routinely accept. Having to monitor one’s personal accounts more closely does not qualify as a compensable injury, as the courts equate this practice with that of [translation] “a reasonable person who protects their assets.”4 The Court also considered the fact that IIROC provided members with free credit monitoring and protection services. It thus concluded that, in this respect, there was no injury to compensate. Finally, the experts who were mandated to analyze the circumstances and wrongful use of the investors’ personal information found that there was no clear indication of wrongful use of the information by a person or group of persons, although evidence of wrongful use of personal information is not necessary to assert a claim. Punitive damages The plaintiff, on behalf of the members of the class action, also sought punitive damages on the grounds that IIROC had been reckless in its handling of the incident. To analyze IIROC’s diligence, the Court noted the following facts.  IIROC launched an internal investigation in the week that followed that of February 22, 2013, the date on which the computer was lost. On March 4, 2013, the investigation revealed that the computer likely contained the personal information of thousands of Canadians. IIROC filed a police report. On March 6, 2013, it mandated Deloitte to identify what personal information was lost and who were the affected persons and brokerage firms, and to help it manage the risks and obligations associated with the loss of the personal information. On March 22, 2013, Deloitte informed IIROC that the computer contained “highly sensitive” and “increased sensitivity” information about thousands of Canadian investors. On March 27, 2013, IIROC notified the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. On April 8 and 9, 2013, IIROC met with representatives of the affected brokerage firms, and simultaneously mandated credit agencies to implement safeguards for investors and brokerage firms. IIROC also set up a bilingual call center, issued a press release about the loss of the computer and sent a letter to affected investors. The Court also accepted expert evidence according to which IIROC’s response was consistent with industry best practices, and that the measures put in place were appropriate in the circumstances and consistent with other responses to similar incidents. In light of the evidence, the Court concluded that the loss of the unencrypted laptop computer and the resulting violation of the right to privacy were isolated and unintentional. It therefore dismissed the claim for punitive damages. The outcome is that IIROC was not reckless: it rather acted in a timely manner. Comments This decision introduces a basis for analyzing the diligent conduct of a company should the personal information that it holds be compromised, and confirms that a prompt and diligent response to a security incident can safeguard against a civil suit. It also confirms that the mere loss of personal information, no matter how sensitive, is not in itself sufficient to justify financial compensation, and that it must be proven that injury was suffered. Furthermore, ordinary annoyances and temporary inconveniences do not constitute compensable injury, and monitoring financial accounts is not exceptional, but is rather considered the standard practice expected of a reasonable person protecting their assets. At the time of writing this bulletin, the time limit for appeal has not expired and the plaintiff has not announced whether he intends to appeal the judgment. Lamoureux v. Organisme canadien de réglementation du commerce des valeurs mobilières (OCRCVM), 2021 QCCS 1093. Sofio v. Organisme canadien de réglementation du commerce des valeurs mobilières (OCRCVM), 2014 QCCS 4061, paras. 21 and 22. Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada Ltd., 2008 SCC 27 [2008] 2 SCR 114. Lamoureux v. Organisme canadien de réglementation du commerce des valeurs mobilières, 2021 QCCS 1093, para. 73.

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  3. A Decision of Interest to the Entertainment Industry

    Is an event organizer responsible for an artist’s late appearance? Context is key, answers the Superior Court’s, as it dismisses the application for authorization to institute a class action against Gestion Evenko Inc.1 regarding Travis Scott’s late appearance at the Osheaga Music and Arts Festival in the summer of 2018. Overview of the first class action on this topic in Quebec. Background The Osheaga Festival, organized by the defendant, Evenko, is a huge celebration dedicated to music and visual arts where artists of all genres perform for three days on the many outdoor stages set up in Parc Jean-Drapeau on Notre-Dame Island. Rapper Travis Scott was on the lineup for the evening of August 3, 2018. His performance was scheduled from 9:45 p.m. to 10:55 p.m. on the River stage. Wishing to attend this performance, the plaintiff, who had purchased a weekend pass, went to the venue at 8:45 p.m. Unfortunately, Travis Scott was held up at customs that evening. The sequence of events can be summarized as follows. At 9:55 p.m., Evenko displayed a first message on the site’s giant screens indicating that the show was delayed for a reason beyond its control. At 10:15 p.m., Evenko broadcast a second message, both on the giant screens and on Twitter, indicating that Travis Scott had been delayed at customs and was on his way to Notre-Dame Island. At 10:30 p.m., the plaintiff left the premises; she claimed that she did not believe Evenko's messages, feared a curfew and found the crowd aggressive. At 10:40 p.m., Evenko broadcast a third message on the giant screens confirming that Travis Scott had arrived on the island. At 10:55 p.m., Evenko broadcast a fourth message announcing to festival-goers that the show was about to begin. The show started at 11:00 p.m. and ended around 11:40 p.m. An application for authorization to institute a class action was filed the next day. The plaintiff sought to represent nearly 50,000 festival-goers who, in her opinion, suffered prejudice attributable to Evenko. She claimed that Travis Scott’s 90-minute delay constituted a breach of contract by Evenko such that all members of the group should obtain a refund equivalent to the value of a daily pass. The Decision In carrying out the analysis required by section 575 of the C.C.P., Justice André Prévost concluded that the alleged facts did not appear to justify the conclusions sought. The application for authorization to institute a class action was therefore dismissed. From the outset, the Court questioned some of the allegations in the application: for example, the plaintiff’s assertion that [translation] “Travis Scott’s performance was the main consideration in the contract with Evenko” seems incompatible with the fact that she purchased a three-day pass (paras. 51, 56); similarly, there was no evidence to support her claim that the crowd was aggressive (para. 54). However, it is mainly two deficiencies in the legal syllogism that led the Court to conclude that the application for authorization did not establish an arguable case or a reasonable prospect of success (para. 66). First, the Court refused to reduce the Osheaga Festival experience to a single performance, even that of a headliner. Rather, it described the event as [translation] “a comprehensive experience [...] whose interest lies in the multiplicity and simultaneity of cultural experiences” (para. 48). In fact, in addition to the invited musical, cultural and circus artists, there are various activities, fairs, cruises and awards ceremonies, to name but a few (para. 48). The Court pointed out that all documents relating to Osheaga’s programming and schedule contain one or more of the following warnings: “Schedule and lineup subject to change” or “Artists and schedule subject to change” (para. 47). These warnings are a strong indication that such delays are far from unusual or, in the words of the Court, [translation] “this is not exceptional for those acquainted with the cultural milieu” (para. 57). In this context, Evenko cannot be found to be at fault. The Court continued its analysis, adding that, even if it were found to be at fault, which is not the case, the situation did not result in any compensable damage: Citing Sofio2 and Mustapha3, the Court pointed out that mere annoyance is not prejudice, and that, in fact, [translation] “there is no evidence that Travis Scott’s delayed performance caused a more serious inconvenience than what is usual for people attending festivals of this nature” (para. 65). In short, in the context of a multi-genre festival, an artist appearing late does not necessarily constitute compensable prejudice and does not automatically amount to the promoter’s failure to fulfil its obligations. What It Means The decision is important to the entertainment industry in that it recognizes that major event organizers sometimes deal with unforeseen circumstances and they are allowed reasonable leeway to adapt to them. Of course, each situation will be particular, but a well-informed promoter will make sure to indicate that changes are possible in its documentation. The decision also recognizes that a comprehensive cultural experience is more than the sum of its parts: a single artist appearing late does not cast a pall on the entire event. This conclusion is likely to apply to many other industries: Osheaga is a typical example of a set of distinct and simultaneous performances, but the same characterization can be given to all the rides in an amusement park or all the individual sections of a zoological garden. Our partners, Myriam Brixi and Laurence Bich-Carrière have successfully represented Evenko's interests in this case.   Le Stum c. Gestion Evenko inc., 2019 QCCS 2422. The time limit for appeal expired on July 22, 2019. Sofio c. Organisme canadien de réglementation du commerce des valeurs mobilières (OCRCVM), 2015 QCCA 1820. Mustapha v. Culligan of Canada Ltd., [2008] 2 SCR 114, 2008 SCC 27.

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  4. Consumer Law: the Time Decision, again

    This publication was authored by Luc Thibaudeau, former partner of Lavery and now judge in the Civil Division of the Court of Québec, District of Longueuil. Consumer law and class action suits go well together. In the recent Girard1decision, the Quebec Court of Appeal, in an opinion by the honourable Jacques Dufresne, noted certain principles that should guide the courts of first instance in the factual analysis of a consumer law case. In so doing, the Court of Appeal is reviewing the lessons of the Supreme Court of Canada in Time2 and applying them in the context of a class action. THE ABSOLUTE PRESUMPTION OF PREJUDICE The Time decision was related to an individual recourse brought by Mr. Jean-Marc Richard on the basis of misrepresentation for an announcement by Time that he had won sweepstakes in which he had not participated. In that case, which involved a violation of the Consumer Protection Act3, the Supreme Court set out four criteria for determining whether a consumer could benefit from an absolute presumption of prejudice and, therefore, from one of the remedies provided for in section 272 of the CPA: [Official English version] that the merchant or manufacturer failed to fulfil one of the obligations imposed by Title II of the Act;  the consumer saw the representation that constituted a prohibited practice; the consumer’s seeing that representation resulted in the formation, amendment or performance of a consumer contract; a sufficient nexus existed between the content of the representation and the goods or services covered by the contract.4 The Girard case, for its part, was brought as a class action based on misrepresentations as to the calculation of a rebate offered by a provider of cable television, Internet and telephone services. Specifically, Mr. Girard criticized the service provider for not having disclosed a 1.5% fee payable to the Local Program Improvement Fund (LPIF) to its subscribers and for having miscalculated that fee.5 The Superior Court allowed the class action and ordered the service provider to pay members of the group nearly $6.5 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. The service provider appealed. Specifically, the judge of first instance found that she did not have to resort to the irrebuttable presumption of prejudice set out in Time, since it was clear that the consumer had suffered prejudice. For judge Dufresne, this constituted an error, but not one that justified the intervention of the Court of Appeal: [Translation] In fact, had she conducted an examination of the four criteria set out in the Time decision, she would nevertheless have concluded that the appellant should be ordered to reimburse the LPIF costs paid by its subscribers, members of the Group, beyond the actual cost of their cable television package.6 Regarding the first criterion of the analytical framework, the Court of Appeal opined that the members of the group had been victims of a business practice prohibited by the Consumer Protection Act due to the erroneous calculation of fees payable to the LPIF. Regarding the second criterion of the analytical framework, namely the awareness of the misrepresentation, judge Dufresne stressed that the members of the group had not been informed of the existence of the fees at the time the contract was made, nor of their method of calculation, the contract, as well as the invoice, being silent on this last point7. The second criterion of the Time decision was thus satisfied. We must conclude that the second criterion can be applied to an omission by the merchant, in the present case that of failing to disclose the method of calculation. The third criterion was not the subject of argument before the Court of Appeal. As for the fourth criterion —that of sufficient nexus— the service provider argued that Mr. Girard had admitted in his testimony that he would have entered into the contract even if he had known that the LPIF fees had been erroneously calculated and that the situation did not present [official English version] “sufficient nexus between the content of the representation [engaging in a prohibited business practice] and the goods or services covered by the contract”8 required by the Time decision. According to this fourth criterion, [official English version] “the prohibited practice must be one that was capable of influencing a consumer’s behaviour with respect to the formation [...] of the contract”9. Because Mr. Girard admitted that he would have entered into the contract anyway, one might think that the failure to reveal the method of calculating the LPIF would not have had any bearing on the formation of the contract. However, judge Dufresne does not hold with this argument: [72] [translation] [...] The misrepresentations, meaning the failure to disclose the method of calculation used and its repercussions, namely the act of collecting more from the respondents than the appellant itself pays to the CRTC for the LPIF, were capable of influencing their decision to contract with the appellant for its cable television services according to the terms and conditions on which they actually contracted.10 Thus, according to this excerpt, one might think that the fourth element of the analytical framework should be applied objectively. This approach stems from the Supreme Court’s use of the wording [official English version] “must be [...] capable of influencing a consumer’s behaviour”11.  The Court of Appeal suggests here that the evaluation of the fourth element of the Time analytical framework must be objective, considering in particular the wording “must be capable” used by the Supreme Court. Yet, in its decision in the Dion case rendered in 2015, another panel of the Court of Appeal adopted a subjective approach, in concreto: [85] The judge in first instance correctly applied the aforementioned to the instant case when she held that the last criterion had not been satisfied given the stipulation that the Consumers would have purchased or leased a vehicle had the charge in question been itemized or broken down. There was, accordingly, no nexus between the prohibited practice and the Consumers’ behaviour. The Consumers’ decision to pay the amount of the charge or to “perform the contract” was not influenced by the prohibited practice. Thus, there was no presumption of prejudice. 12 This question may deserve to be revisited. It is true that an objective approach benefits consumers in that it reduces their burden of proof. However, it seems that the subject of the third criterion of the Time analytical framework argues in favour of a more factual, more concrete approach. That is what is stated in the (original) English version of justice Cromwell’s reasoning in Time: “that the consumer’s seeing that representation resulted in the formation [...] of the consumer contract”13. The use of this concept of “result” suggests to the decider to proceed in a subjective manner to an analysis of the facts of the case. With respect to the fourth criterion, the English version of the decision is also telling: “a sufficient nexus existed between the content of the representation and the goods or services covered by the contract”14. This concept of “existence” also invites to proceed with a subjective analysis. Consumer law cases must be decided in accordance with the rules of civil law. This is moreover one of the lessons from Time15. A subjective approach appears more compatible with the general principles of civil law according to which a sufficient causal connection is necessary to establish the existence of a cause of action. AWARD OF PUNITIVE DAMAGES Another important aspect of the Court of Appeal’s decision on Girard is the “punitive damages” component. Remember that at the court of first instance, the first judge had granted an award of punitive damages of one million dollars in addition to a monetary award of more than six million dollars. On appeal, the Court of Appeal reduced this award to $200,000. Relying once again on the Time decision, judge Dufresne noted certain principles that must guide the court when awarding punitive damages:  [210] [Official English version] Where a court decides to award punitive damages, it must relate the facts of the case before it to the objectives that underlie such damages and ask itself how, in this particular case, awarding them would further those objectives. It must try to fix the most appropriate amount, that is, the lowest amount that would serve the purpose.16 (emphasis added). Then: [Official English version] Having regard to this objective and the objectives of the C.P.A., violations by merchants or manufacturers that are intentional, malicious or vexatious, and conduct on their part in which they display ignorance, carelessness or serious negligence with respect to their obligations and consumers’ rights under the C.P.A. may result in awards of punitive damages. However, before awarding such damages, the court must consider the whole of the merchant’s conduct at the time of and after the violations.17 Judge Dufresne recognizes that these principles argue in favour of an award of punitive damages as a remedy for the violation of the C.P.A. However, he considers the amount of one million dollars to go far beyond what is indicated by the circumstances to satisfy the objectives of the Act18. He also reiterates that the amount of punitive damages awarded, while being sufficient to serve the preventive function of the C.P.A., must be proportional to the seriousness of the alleged breaches19. However, all these factors being taken into consideration, the seriousness of the alleged breach is the most important20. On this point, judge Dufresne considers that, while not trivial, the seriousness of the C.P.A. violation should be put into perspective. He considers that the award of over six million dollars in compensatory damages carries a significant punitive effect and surely serves as a deterrent. In this sense, judge Dufresne considers that the decision of the Superior Court does not adequately assess the behaviour of the service provider before, during and after the violation of C.P.A. Even if the service provider’s defense proved to be unfounded, it did not amount to an abusive practice21. This intervention by the Court of Appeal in determining the amount of punitive damages could be characterized as exceptional. In Time, the Supreme Court recognized a certain discretion by the court of first instance in the award of -punitive damages: [Official English version] “[i]t should be borne in mind that a trial court has latitude in determining the quantum of punitive damages, provided that the amount it awards remains within rational limits in light of the specific circumstances of the case before it”22. This discretion, however, seems limited and must respect the duty of restraint of the judge who grants punitive damages. The Girard decision thus confirms the exceptional nature of the punitive damages, as recognized by the Supreme Court in Time23, and the need in consumer law for such damages to be justified in the general context of attaining the objectives of the Consumer Protection Act, namely (1) the restoration of an equilibrium in contractual relations between merchants and consumers and (2) the elimination of unfair practices that could distort the information available to the consumer and prevent him from making informed choices24. CONCLUSION The Court of Appeal’s decision in Girard will likely become the topic of much discussion. Consumer law is an area particularly conducive to class action suits and the four-part test set out in the Time decision to determine the applicability of the absolute presumption of prejudice will surely be used again by the courts in the near future. The question of whether the analytical criteria should be assessed objectively or subjectively certainly deserves to be discussed in greater depth. This question is of particular interest in the context of class actions. With respect to the "punitive damages" component of the decision, it appears that the decision in first instance is one of the rare cases where the Supreme Court accepts that an appellate court may review a first instance decision to award such damages. Justice Cromwell wrote in Time: [Official English version] “[a]n assessment will be wholly erroneous if it is established that the trial court clearly erred in exercising its discretion, that is, if the amount awarded was not rationally connected to the purposes being pursued in awarding punitive damages in the case before the court”25. Considering the Court of Appeal’s intervention in the Girard decision, we may assume that the duty of restraint of the trial judge is central to achieving this objective. The deadline for requesting permission to appeal to the Supreme Court is August 11. So this is a case to follow!   Vidéotron v. Girard, 2018 QCCA 767 (hereinafter: “Girard”). Richard v. Time, 2012 SCC 8 (hereinafter: “Time”). CQLR c. P-40.1 (the “C.P.A.”). Time, para. 124. Girard, para. 13. Girard, para. 48. Girard, paras. 65-66. Time, para. 124; Girard, para. 70. Time, para. 124; Girard, para. 70. Girard, para. 72. (emphasis is added unless indicated otherwise) Time, para. 124. Dion c. Compagnie de services de financement automobile Primus Canada, 2015 QCCA 333, para. 85. Time, para. 124 (emphasis added). ENGLISH VERSION: “that the consumer’s seeing that representation resulted in the formation [...] of [the] contract”. However, the French version reads: “la formation, la modification ou l’exécution d’un contrat de consommation subséquente à cette prise de connaissance” [translation: the formation, modification or execution of a consumer contract following that awareness] (emphasis added). Time, para. 124 (emphasis added). ENGLISH VERSION: “a sufficient nexus existed between the content of the representation and the goods or services covered by the contract”. However, the French version reads: “une proximité suffisante entre le contenu de la représentation et le bien ou le service visé par le contrat” [translation: a sufficient nexus between the content of the representation and the good or service concerned in the contract] (emphasis added). Time, para. 111. Time, paras. 210 & 215; Girard, para. 100. Time, para. 180; Girard, para. 102. Girard, para. 103 Girard, para. 105. Time, para. 190. Girard, para. 111. Time, para. 190. This is consistent with existing case law. See: Banque de Montréal v. Marcotte, [2014] 2 SCR 725, 2014 SCC 55, para. 98; Cinar Corporation v. Robinson, 2013 SCC 73, para. 134; and Dion, paras. 128-129. Time, para. 150. Time, paras. 160-161. See also: Banque de Montréal v. Marcotte, [2014] 2 SCR 725, 2014 SCC 55, para. 55. Time, para. 190.

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