The Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently released its
decision in the common issues class action trial of Ramdath v. George Brown College, 2012
ONSC 6173. This is one of the very few rulings on the merits of a
class action trial in Ontario.
The case also proceeded relatively promptly for our
jurisdiction, taking about two and a half years from certification
to common issue trial. The trial was heard over two days with all
of the evidence adduced by way of affidavits and read-ins.
The class members were about 120 former students of a business
management program at George Brown College. They claimed that the
course calendar falsely stated that graduates of the program would
obtain three industry designations in addition to a college
certificate. The representative plaintiffs already held university
degrees and/or college certificates and claimed that they had
enrolled in the program to obtain the industry designations, not
the college certificate.
The common issues trial focused on claims of breach of the
Consumer Protection Act and negligent misrepresentation.
Justice Belobaba, recently appointed to hear class action matters
in Toronto, presided over the trial. He held that George
Brown College was liable for breach of the "unfair
practices" provisions in Part III of the Consumer
Protection Act on the basis that the representation at issue
was inaccurate, misleading and untrue. He found that evidence of
actual reliance is not required to establish liability under the
Consumer Protection Act.
Justice Belobaba made some findings with respect to elements of
the negligent misrepresentation claim, but concluded that
individual inquiries "may still be needed to establish legal
liability for negligent misrepresentation, namely evidence of
individual reliance." He noted that these individual inquiries
would be addressed in the next phase of the class action
litigation, which would also deal with damages for the Consumer
Protection Act claim. The individual inquiries would
also be one of the very few times that this process has taken place
in Ontario class actions.
This decision joins a slowly but surely growing body of class
actions that have proceeded through a common issues trial. It
demonstrates the increasing maturation of Ontario's class
proceedings regime, both by the fact of the trial itself, and in
the efficient process that was used by the parties.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
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