The Quebec Court of Appeal has overturned no less than eight lower court decisions over the past year that denied class action certification, signaling a possible discord that shows little sign of abating between motion judges more likely to cast a critical eye and the higher court intent on strictly adhering to case law and the teachings of the Supreme Court of Canada, according to class action experts.
With the Quebec justice system under severe strain, beset by underfunding and vexed by a dire shortage of court personnel, with more than 20 per cent of employees resigning in a year, leaving many Quebec judges compelled to share judicial assistants, class action lawyers speculate that motion judges are taking a harder line on the viability of class actions, all the while taking into consideration the impact it would have on an overtaxed justice system. “Perhaps what is happening is that trial judges have a more concrete understanding of the fact that there are already too many class actions going on in Quebec, be it at the authorization stage or at the trial level,” said Éric Préfontaine, a Montreal class action defence lawyer with Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. “There seems to be some kind of disconnect between the assessment some motion judges make” and the Appeal Court.
In an “important precedent,” the Quebec Court of Appeal held that Ottawa and Quebec breached their duty to act honourably after it refused to adequately finance the police department of a First Nation to ensure that its services were equal in quality to those offered to non-Indigenous communities, according to aboriginal law experts.
The ruling, deemed by pundits as a “pretty striking way of reading” Canada’s agreements with First Nations on programs and services, ordered both the federal and the Quebec government to pay the Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan First Nation, located in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, $1.6 million to cover years of underfunding of its police force. A year ago, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal concluded in Dominique (on behalf of the members of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation) v. Public Safety Canada, 2022 CHRT 4 that the same First Nation were victims of discrimination due to inadequate police funding, a decision Canada is seeking judicial review.
Sometimes a person who has been legally declared dead is not dead.
In a remarkably rare turnabout, a Canadian insurer successfully convinced Quebec Superior Court to annul a judicial declaration of death of a Montreal man who disappeared in 2008 after reliable signs of life were uncovered, freeing it of its obligation to pay $500,000 in life insurance.
The Attorney General of Canada and two RCMP officers were ordered by the Quebec Court of Appeal to pay $400,000 in punitive damages after they published and disseminated false information about a Laval couple who were wrongly charged in Canada’s first human trafficking case.
Telus became the third Canadian telecommunication giant ordered to pay clients who paid excessive cancellation fees after the Quebec Court of Appeal partially overturned a lower court decision that dismissed the class action.
Carleton University won the right to reclaim nearly $500,000 in pension benefits made to a former political science professor who was missing for years before his remains were found in the woods near his Quebec home after the Quebec Court of Appeal held that the pension plan plainly states that the benefits ceased when the beneficiary died.
The ruling, which essentially upheld a lower court ruling but not for the same reasons, appears to have broadened the scope of several Civil Code of Quebec provisions by applying a “generous and liberal interpretation” to unjust enrichment and the legal presumption surrounding absentees, according to legal experts.
A lower court ruling that awarded $5.6 million to a vessel fleet operator was overturned by the Quebec Court of Appeal after it held that the trial judge erred by applying the Civil Code of Quebec to settle a dispute instead of Canadian maritime law.
In a majority decision, the appeal court held that disputes concerning the repair and supply of engine parts to a ship is subject to Canadian maritime law, and therefore common law rules apply rather than civil law rules of delictual liability. As Canadian maritime law applies, the appeal court reaffirms it is the common law of contract and tort that applies to these cases.
A controversial Quebec Superior Court decision that ruled that religious marriages do not necessarily carry any legal obligations under civil law may have alarming and sweeping consequences, according to family law experts.
The “disturbing” ruling creates a new category of civil status in Quebec, undermines long-held views of religious marriages, and will possibly expose women to vulnerable situations where they will be pressured into celebrating a religious marriage without the protection afforded by civil law, cautioned family lawyers.
Three Canadian tobacco companies will not have to make an immediate $1.13 billion payment to Quebec smokers who won a landmark class action suit after the Quebec Court of Appeal held that the justification for the provisional execution is weak, the prejudice to the firms serious, and that the balance of convenience weighs in their favour.
The federal government and two employees who worked for an Employee Assistance Program were ordered to pay nearly $175,000 for breaching the rights of an employee who sought their assistance in a case that underlines the importance for employers and personnel to safeguard confidential information.
“Employers must draw lessons from this ruling on how to deal with confidential and private information of employees,” said Sébastien Lorquet, a labour and employment lawyer with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. “They must understand that if confidential and private information is disclosed and that it causes harm to an employee, then employers and employees at fault can be held liable for damages incurred by the employee who suffered harm.”