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Tag: Class Proceedings Act

ICBC Privacy Breach Class Action Allowed To Include Claim for Punitive Damages

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Court of Appeal expanding the scope of a class action lawsuit against ICBC to allow claims for punitive damages to be included in the claim.

In the recent case (Ari v. ICBC) ICBC was sued after an employee of theirs passed personal records ICBC kept to “an acquaintance involved in the drug trade” after which a series of attacks were carried out against some of the individuals who had their private information compromised.  The court noted the following background

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Court Prohibits Lawyer From All 'Current or Future Representation of Claimants in the IAP'

In a rare judicial intervention into a lawyer’s practice, reasons for judgement were released yesterday by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, stripping a lawyer from all of his cases relating to the residential school Independent Assessment Process class action settlement.  The Court determined it had jurisdiction to make such an order pursuant to section 12 of BC’s Class Proceedings Act.
In yesterday’s case (Fontaine v. Canada (Attorney General)) lawyer David Blott was on record ‘for approximately 2,900 (IAP) claimants‘.  ‘Concerns‘ were raised with respect to this lawyer’s practice.  These led to an investigation of the lawyers practice resulting in a final report with various troubling findings (these are highlighted at paragraphs 17 and 18 of the reasons for judgement).
An application was made seeking significant judicial intervention including an order stripping the lawyer of all of his IAP files.  In granting this extraordinary relief, Madam Justice Brown provided, amongst other criticism, the following comments:

[167] The conclusion of the LSA panel regarding Mr. Blott’s conduct bears repeating:

But after considering all of the evidence in this matter and hearing Mr. Blott, we continue to be concerned that Mr. Blott does not appear to understand what it means to be a lawyer.  We are concerned that Mr. Blott appears not to recognize that his primary role is as a fiduciary and everything else is secondary.

[168] I share the LSA’s concern that Mr. Blott does not understand what it means to be a lawyer.  Further, while I also understand the desire to avoid additional victimization of the members of an already-vulnerable class, a more lasting remedy than the interim measure implemented by the LSA is required.  The process approved by the LSA, and advanced by Mr. Blott on this application, would see at least 1,500 clients moved from the Blott firm to other lawyers in any event.  Viewed in that light, the issue is not whether disruption will be experienced by Blott clients, but rather the number of clients who will experience it.

[169] It would be far better to have this client transfer process conducted under the supervision of the court and it is necessary for the integrity of the process and the protection of the clients that it be a complete transfer.  Therefore, I will accept and implement the Monitor’s recommendation in respect of the removal of David Blott, David Blott Professional Corporation, Blott & Company, and any associated entity from the current or future representation of claimants in the IAP or any other process embodied in the settlement.

SCC Gives Robust Interpretation To BC Consumer Protection Legislation

Important reasons for judgement were released this week by the Supreme Court of Canada giving a robust interpretation to British Columbia’s Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (the “BPCPA”).
In this week’s case (Seidel v. Telus Comminications Inc.) the Plaintiff was a customer with Telus.    Her contract with Telus purported to strip her right to sue if she had a dispute with the company and instead restricted her to “private, confidential and binding arbitration“.  In addition to this the contract purported to waive “any right (she) may have to commence or participate in any class action against Telus“.
The Plaintiff alleged that Telus engaged in deceptive billing practices.  She launched a lawsuit and intended to make it a class action.  She sued under s. 171 and 172 the BPCPA which in gave her the right to “bring an action in the Supreme Court” for damages and other relief in the face of “unconscionable acts or practices“.  Section 3 of the BPCPA states that “any waiver or release by a person of the person’s rights, benefits or protections under this Act is Void except to the extent that the waiver is expressly permitted by this Act.”
Telus relied on the waiver and argued that if it’s customers had complaints they had to participate in mediation or arbitration but could not sue nor participate in a Class Action.  In 5-4 split the Supreme Court of Canada disagreed and held that the BPCPA was paramount and that her court action “must be allowed“.  The Court went further and allowed the Plaintiff to seek to certify the lawsuit as a class action holding that the class action waiver was part and parcel of the clause which violated section 3 of the BPCPA.  In striking down the waiver the Canadian high court provided the following useful reasons:
[5] …. My opinion is that to the extent Ms. Seidel’s claim in the Supreme Court invokes s. 172 remedies in respect of “rights, benefits or protections” conferred by the BPCPA, her court action must be allowed to proceed notwithstanding the mediation/arbitration clause.  This includes her claims for declaratory and injunctive relief and, if granted, ancillary relief in the form of restoration to consumers of any money acquired by TELUS in contravention of the BPCPA.
[6]    The reason for this conclusion is simple.  Section 172 provides a mandate for consumer activists or others, whether or not they are personally “affected” in any way by any “consumer transaction”.  Section 172 contemplates such a person “bringing the action”.  The action is specified to be brought “in Supreme Court”.  The clear intention of the legislature is to supplement and multiply the efforts of the Director under theBPCPA to implement province-wide standards of fair consumer practices by enlisting the efforts of a whole host of self-appointed private enforcers.  In an era of tight government budgets and increasingly sophisticated supplier contracts, this is understandable legislative policy.  An action in the Supreme Court will generate a measure of notoriety and, where successful, public denunciation, neither of which would be achieved to nearly the same extent by “private, confidential and binding arbitration”….
[24]  ….from the perspective of the BPCPA, “private, confidential and binding arbitration” will almost certainly inhibit rather than promote wide publicity (and thus deterrence) of deceptive and/or unconscionable commercial conduct.  It is clearly open to a legislature to utilize private consumers as effective enforcement partners operating independently of the formal enforcement bureaucracy and to conclude that the most effective form is not a “private and confidential” alternative dispute resolution behind closed doors, but very public and well-publicized proceedings in a court of law…
[37]    As to statutory purpose, the BPCPA is all about consumer protection.  As such, its terms should be interpreted generously in favour of consumers: Smith v. Co-operators General Insurance Co., 2002 SCC 30, [2002] 2 S.C.R. 129, and ACS Public Sector Solutions Inc. v. Courthouse Technologies Ltd., 2005 BCCA 605, 48 B.C.L.R. (4th) 328.  The policy objectives of s. 172 would not be well served by low-profile, private and confidential arbitrations where consumers of a particular product may have little opportunity to connect with other consumers who may share their experience and complaints and seek vindication through a well-publicized court action…
[40]  In summary, s. 172 offer remedies different in scope and quality from those available from an arbitrator and constitutes a legislative override of the parties’ freedom to choose arbitration.  Unlike Quebec and Ontario, which have decided to ban arbitration of consumer claims altogether, or Alberta, which subjects consumer arbitration clauses to ministerial approval, the B.C. legislature sought to ensure only that certain claims proceed to the court system, leaving others to be resolved according to the agreement of the parties.  It is incumbent on the courts to give effect to that legislative choice, in my view.