Home Jurisdiction Alberta Matures as a Class Action Jurisdiction

Alberta Matures as a Class Action Jurisdiction

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In addition, the types of class actions pleaded in Alberta are increasingly diverse. Many of the past cases in Alberta have been brought by investors in “gone bad” real estate projects. There are now class actions that deal with a multitude of issues, for example the THC content of cannabis, potentially faulty vehicles, environmental incidents, allegations of wrongful holding and issues of disclosure of securities.

Alberta’s current regime is probably best described as “balanced” rather than “favorable” to the plaintiff or defendant. For example, this is not a “no-cost plan”, and the costs can potentially be significant (i.e. 40% to 50% of the actual fees of the winning party, as the court d ‘call McAllister vs. Calgary (City), 2021 ABCA 25). On the other hand, in Elder Advocates of Alberta Society v Alberta Health Services, 2021 ABCA 67, the Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the trial judge’s decision not to award costs to representatives of failed claimants where there was a new question of law and the class members constituted a “disadvantaged group” to promote access to justice.

In addition, certification is generally not a significant obstacle for legal action when there is evidence of real and common harm or loss. In recent years, approximately three-quarters of all certification hearings have been successful (in whole or in part). On the other hand, demands for a strike or suspension of unfounded actions are often heard before certification in order to promote efficiency and avoid unnecessary costs, as in Briton v Ford Motor Company of Canada Ltd, 2020 ABQB 344. Alberta has developed a playing field that balances plaintiffs and defendants.

It has been exciting to witness the evolution of Alberta’s class action system over the past decade, and it will be interesting to see how this increasingly active jurisdiction matures in the years to come.

Andrew Sunter is a partner at Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP. His practice focuses on complex and high-stakes litigation, particularly in the areas of commercial, construction, energy, corporate governance and class actions.