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Important things to know about starting class action litigation

If an individual or a group wrongs a person directly, there may be grounds for a civil lawsuit. If, however, that same individual or group wrongs many people, class action litigation may be appropriate. For those wishing to know more, here are some key facts about class actions in Ontario.

Ontario is one of seven provinces that allow class action lawsuits. In a class action suit, an individual, or a group of individuals, sues the offending party on behalf of a larger group for the harm that party has caused to the members of the group. The group is referred to as "the class." 

Most class action suits have two factors in common. Firstly, there are usually too many plaintiffs to make individual lawsuits a reasonable possibility. Secondly, all members of the class have the same complaint. By way of example, a group of consumers might join a class action against a company that knowingly sold a defective product that caused the buyers harm.

Before proceeding, a judge must certify the suit. A representative plaintiff will file the statement of claim for the judge to review. If the judge believes the claim has merit, he or she will give certification and the suit can go ahead. To simplify matters, the lawyer the representative plaintiff chooses becomes the lawyer for the entire class.

Initiating class action litigation takes both time and courage. The road ahead for the representative plaintiff will not be easy. Choosing a lawyer who has had experience and success with class action suits in Ontario may make the entire process much easier to get through.

Source: FindLaw Canada, "Class action: starting a lawsuit with others", Accessed on April 24, 2017

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