Every proposed class action must include a “class definition” that identifies the persons who are eligible to participate in the class action
Why Have a Class Definition?
The courts have identified three generally accepted reasons for having a class definition:
- The definition identifies those persons who have a potential claim against the Defendant;
- It identifies the persons (class members and defendants) who will be bound by the results of the class action; and finally,
- The definition describes who is entitled to receive notice of the existence of the class action under the terms of the Class Proceedings Act.
Definition Must Be Objective
Generally speaking, the definition of the Class must use objective criteria so that a person reading the class definition can tell whether or not they are a member of the class.
A class definition that depends on the determination of a legal issue in the action would not be acceptable because the merits are not to be decided at the certification stage.
For example, a class definition that includes everyone who purchased widget XYZ is objective. If you bought the widget, you know you are a potential class member.
Class Cannot be Unlimited
The class definition must also have boundaries in the sense that it is not unlimited. It is not uncommon for the exact number of members of the Class to be unknown at the time a class action is filed or even when the class action is certified.
As long as the class members can be identified, it does not matter if they have not already been identified. In fact, Section 10(d) of the Class Proceedings Act expressly says that the Court shall not refuse to certify a class proceeding because the number of class members or identity of class members has not been ascertained or may not be ascertainable.