North-American Colloquium : The Class Action Effect / From the Legislator’s Imagination to Today’s Uses and Practices



GUEST OF HONOUR :  The Honourable Justice Richard Wagner, Supreme Court of Canada

Organisation : Class Actions Lab, Université de Montréal

In Collaboration with : Center on Civil Justice, NYU School of Law


The modern class action was born in North America more than fifty years ago. Initially imagined as a liberal initiative intended to expand the civil rights and liberties of American citizens, it became a tool for public interest altruistic lawyers to conduct institutional reform litigation and challenge discrimination, institutions and education. Later on, in the U.S., mass torts and attorney fee increases led lawyers to conceptualise and use the class action as a financial venture. This new class action tool appeared to be a promising new form of complex litigation.

Canada then followed the American lead and adopted a class action tool, thereby evolving in similar directions. Born in Quebec in 1979, the recours collectif had a thunderbolt effect within the community. After a slow start, class actions eventually started being certified and led to many successful collective recoveries in varied cases. In the early eighties, the Supreme Court of Canada emphasised the class action’s utility and objectives, and class proceedings systems started being enacted in other Canadian provinces.

Today, one could say from the apparent volume of cases brought annually, the variety of such cases, the damage amounts sought and awarded, and the increasing numbers of cases brought throughout North-America, that class actions are here to stay. But American authors seem to suggest that common law class actions are declining, that they might even be dying. The U.S. Supreme Court in Italian Colours, Wal-Mart and A.T. & T. Cases has recently similarly narrowed the scope and uses of U.S. class actions. In comparison, in 2015, the Canadian Supreme Court has reversed certain trends that had previously been shifting in a plaintiff-friendly direction and has started to show judicial reluctance to certify global and national class actions.

This conference will seek to determine how the class action has evolved from its original objectives and uses to current, contemporary practices. It will ask whether class actions are worth their while for plaintiffs, members and the general public, as based on current empirical data. It will seek to answer the following questions: What were the original conception, uses and effects of the class action and how have they evolved over the decades, throughout North America? What proof (and data) do we have, if any, that the goals of compensation, deterrence and efficiency are being met? What effect does the class action tool have in today’s practice?

The two official languages of the conference are English and French. A simultaneous translation service will be provided to all conference participants, as between French and English.


8:00 to 8:45

Registration and Breakfast


Introductory Remarks – Prof. Catherine Piché

9:00 to 10:20

First panel : The Historical Conception and Definitions of the Class Action Device

>  The Class Action Tool at its Essence

Prof. Samuel Issacharoff, New York University School of Law

> Class Actions at the Edge of Private Law

Prof. Daniel Jutras, McGill University Faculty of Law

> Title to Be Confirmed

Prof. Dr. Janet Walker, Osgoode Hall Law School

> Q&A session (10 min.)

10:20 to 10:35


10:35 to 12:15

Second panel : The Compensation of Citizens Through Class Actions

> Cy-près, Leftover Distributions and Compensation

Prof. Jasminka Kalajdzic, Windsor University Faculty of Law

> Title to Be Confirmed

Me Laura Bruneau, Bruneau Group

> European Data on Collective Redress

Prof. Dr. Stefaan Voet, Leuven Law School

> Class Actions Lab’s Report on Compensation (Quebec Data)

Prof. Catherine Piché et Me Shana Chaffai-Parent, Class Actions Lab, Université de Montréal

> Q&A session (10 min.)

12:15 to 13:15


@ Location to be confirmed

13:15 to 14:35

Third panel : The Deterrence and Behaviour Modification Effects of Class Actions

> Empirical Data on Deterrence

Prof. Brian T. Fitzpatrick, Vanderbilt Law School

> Title to Be Confirmed

Me Mary Bartkus, Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP (formerly Executive Director and Senior Counsel, International Litigation, Merck & Co.)

> Title to Be Confirmed

Me Valérie Beaudin, in-house counsel, Bell Canada

> Concept of Deterrence in Law and Economics

Prof. Stéphane Rousseau, Faculté de droit de l’Université de Montréal

> Q&A session (10 min.)

14:35 to 14:50


14:50 to 16:00

Fourth panel : Contemporary Uses and Practices in Class Actions

Moderator : The Honourable Justice Pierre-C. Gagnon, Coordinator of the Class Action Chamber, Quebec Superior Court

> Experience leading Tobacco and Banking Class Action Litigation (exact title to be confirmed)

Me André Lespérance et Me Clara Poissant-Lespérance, Lauzon Bélanger Lespérance

> Title to Be Confirmed

Me Jonathan Foreman, Harrison Pensa

> Title to Be Confirmed

Me Claude Marseille, Blakes

> Title to Be Confirmed

Prof. Pierre-Claude Lafond, Université de Montréal

> Q&A session (10 min.)


16:00 to 16:30

Keynote Remarks : The Evolution of Class Action as a Procedural Tool, from Yesterday to Today (Title to Be Confirmed)

> The Honourable Justice Richard Wagner, Supreme Court of Canada

16:30 to 18:30


@ Café Acquis de droit

To be confirmed : 20 min. for two (2) presentation by students.


This content has been updated on March 8, 2017 at 9:12 pm.