Case-management Judge Appointed in Vitamin Class Action Suit

In a decision that has major implications for the management of class actions in Canada commenced in different jurisdictions, Superior Court Justice Archie Campbell overturned on April 20, 2000 the ruling of Justice John Brockenshire of Windsor in a class action suit that required that the case be held in his jurisdiction because the matter was first brought before a judge in that location. Justice Campbell reasoned that the location of the case management judge should not “depend simply on which counsel arrives first at the courtroom door.” He ruled that convenience for all plaintiffs and counsel favoured Toronto as the location. At issue in the case was the management of six interwoven proposed class actions concerning alleged price-fixing conspiracy to raise the price of vitamins sold over-the-counter to consumers and food manufacturers. Claims for damages exceed $2 billion. The actions that have separate plaintiffs, identical issues and common defendants, were begun in three different judicial regions, and have outstanding overlapping conflicting motions pending before different judges in different regions.
The parties agreed to the need for case management; at issue were the location and the appointment of the judge. One of the parties to the suit, Vitapharm, is seeking leave to appeal, but no date has yet been set for the hearing.

Philip Spencer, Q.C. and Glenn M. Zakaib of Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP acted for Merck KgaA. Sandra Forbes of Davies, Ward & Beck represented RPCI. James Doris of Davies, Ward & Beck represented Bioproducts Inc. William Vanveen of Gowling, Strathy & Henderson represented Hoffmann-LaRoche. Brian Saunderson of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP represented DCV, Inc. and DuCoa L.P. Kent Thomson of Torys represented the Chinook Group. Donald Houston and Jason Markwell of Kelly Affleck Greene represented Alusuisse-Lonza Canada Inc. Eliot Kolers of Stikeman Elliott represented Eisai Co. Ltd. John F. Rook, Q.C., of Osler, Hoskin Harcourt LLP represented Takeda Chemical Industries Company Ltd. David Kent of McMillan Binch represented BASF Corporation. J. Perry Borden, Q.C. and Roger Gosbee represented the Horvath plaintiffs. Scott Ritchie, Q.C. and Dawn Sullivan of Siskind, Cromarty, Ivey & Dowler LLP represented Ford. Jasminka Kalajdzic of Sutts, Strosberg LLP represented Vitapharm.