Class actions seemingly alive and well in Quebec

Class actions appear to be thriving in Quebec. A series of suits launched recently seem to enhance the province’s reputation as a have for class action suits. But that may be illusory.

Yesterday FTQ-Construction, the largest construction union in Quebec, was slapped with a class action following an illegal strike that paralyzed much of the industry in late October.

Launched by two entrepreneurs, Turenne Briques et Pierres and Maçonnerie Magloire Gosselinon, the suit is seeking to recoup approximately $10,000 in damages that they claim they suffered during three days of wildcat strikes. The suit is also seeking damages suffered by construction workers who were not paid during the walkout.

In late October, unionized workers demonstrated at dozens of sites across the province in protest over the Liberal government’s proposed reforms for construction union rules. Bill 33 would limit the unions’ power to choose who works on which sites and compel them to open their books to the public.

In another class action development, The Gazette revealed that a class action launched against convicted sex offender Renwick Spence and the English Montreal School Board will go to trial on May 2013, nearly seven years after the motion to institute the lawsuit was first filed in court. Twenty days have been set aside for the trial.

Spence, 82, a former Montreal West High School teacher, pleaded guilty to abusing eight male students between 1967 and 1981. He was sentenced four years ago to 30 months in prison.

And then there’s the class action that caught the atttention of the business community worldwide. A Montreal law firm launched a class action against Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM) on behalf of individuals who lost the use of their BlackBerry devices during a service outage in October. The system-wide failure of the service left tens of millions of frustrated Blackberry users on five continents without email, instant messaging and browsing. The suit alleges that failed to compensate BlackBerry users with refunds for loss of service and must “take full responsibility for these damages.”

But while the latest spate of suits give rise to the impression that Quebec is a class action haven, that is far from the case.

”The jurisprudence in Quebec has evolved, and it can no longer be said that Quebec is a class action haven,” said Jean Saint-Onge, a class action expert with Lavery, de Billy in Montreal.  “Even if it is easier to launch class actions in Quebec, making it more accessible to consumers and by reducing the procedural barriers, the Quebec Court of Appeal has adopted a more rigorous approach to certification.”

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