The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has upheld the authorization granted by the Quebec Court of Appeal to institute a class action against Vivendi Canada Inc. in Vivendi Canada Inc. v. Dell'Aniello. The class action will raise the question whether amendments made unilaterally by the employer to the health insurance plan – which reduce certain benefits offered to the retirees and their surviving spouses – are lawful.
The SCC's decision provides valuable insight into the scope of the "identical, similar or related questions" requirement found in section 1003(a) of the Quebec Code of Civil Procedure (CCP). Even though the commonality criterion applies in all Canadian provinces, the Quebec approach to commonality is described as more flexible than the one at common law. Additionally, the Quebec provisions do not require that a class action be the "preferable" procedure.
The CCP requires the existence of a question of law that, once answered, will resolve a "not insignificant" portion of the litigation. As long as it does not give rise to conflicting interests among the members, the answer to such question can be adjusted to reflect individual claims, says the Court.
It is also worth noting that the SCC confirmed that a national class action can be authorized notwithstanding the difficulties that may arise from the multitude of legal schemes applicable (in this case, the employees worked in six different provinces).
More broadly, the decision reiterates the judge's role at the authorization stage: "one of screening motions" without dealing with the merits of the case.
The representative plaintiff, Michel Dell'Aniello, was represented by Claude Tardif and Catherine Massé-Lacoste of Rivest Schmidt.
Vivendi Canada Inc. was represented by Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP's Sylvain Lussier, Michel Benoit and Julien Ranger-Musiol.
The intervenors, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters and Canadian Chamber of Commerce, were represented by McCarthy Tétrault LLP's Michael Feder and Pierre-Jérôme Bouchard.