The courts in various provinces have identified three common goals of class action legislation. They are:
- Judicial economy;
- Access to justice; and,
- Deterrence or behavior modification.
Class actions (by definition) involve many claimants. They also involve persons with the same kind of claim. Class actions promote more efficiency in our court system because they avoid having to conduct dozens (or hundreds) of trials all about the same issue.
Simply put, the ability to deal with numerous similar claims all at the same time is a more effective way to deal with the limited resources of our busy courts.
Access to Justice
Even though our court system is one of the best in the world, litigation can be expensive and time consuming. The fact is that our courts do not do a very good job at efficiently dealing with “small” claims.
That means that someone who has suffered a loss of a hundred dollars or even thousands of dollars as a result of someone’s wrongful conduct may not be able to afford to bring a lawsuit to receive compensation for their loss.
Class actions provide class members with access to the justice they are entitled, but may not be able to afford, to receive.
Deterrence or Behavior Modification
If a manufacturer, company, government or any other potential defendant knows that they are doing something wrong, but also knows that the people they are hurting are not likely to be able to do anything about it, there is no incentive for the defendant to change or alter their behavior.
Class actions help deter wrongful conduct by imposing a cost on defendants.
The Supreme Court of Canada has said that class actions: “…serve efficiency and justice by ensuring that actual and potential wrongdoers do not ignore their obligations to the public.”
It is not necessary for all three of the goals to be present in a class action for the claim to be certified. However, to the extent that each of the goals is realized, there is a greater chance that the class action will be certified and allowed to proceed.