A class action lets one person go to court on behalf of all people who are in the same situation. The person must hire a lawyer to help with the court process.
The Representative and the Lawyer
The person who starts a class action is called the representative. The representative speaks for all the people, called members, who can get compensation if the action is successful.
To become a representative, a person must meet these requirements:
- have an interest in the problem that the class action seeks to remedy
- understands the risks in taking a class action
- agrees to be involved in the class action on behalf of all the members
The person must also hire a lawyer to ensure the class action is properly handled.
Permission From a Judge
A judge must give permission to start a class action. The representative and the lawyer prepare a formal request for permission. The judge will ensure these requirements are met:
- Other people have a similar problem.
- A class action is better for solving the problem than many separate court cases.
- The representative is qualified to represent the members.
- The class action has a chance of succeeding.
It’s not necessary to know the names of the members or how many there are. It’s enough to be able to define them as a group.
If the judge finds that all the requirements are met, permission will be given to start the class action.
Who pays for the lawyer?
As a rule, a person who hires a lawyer must pay her fees. But in a class action, lawyers are usually paid only if they win. Lawyers are allowed a percentage of the total amount awarded to the members. The representative and the lawyer must agree on the percentage at the beginning of the process.
The representative can also get financial aid from the Fonds d’aide aux action collectives (a government fund to help finance a class action).
Are you thinking of starting a class action?
Most lawyers and law firms who take class actions have a website. You can find them by doing a Google search using search words such as “lawyer” and “class action.”
You can also find lawyers who specialize in class actions by filling out an online questionnaire on the website JurisRéférence. Choose the city where you want to find a lawyer, select the area of law “Civil Law” and the sub-area “Class Actions.”
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.