As many Canadian employers continue to amend the terms of
pension and benefit plans, class action proceedings continue to be
brought by current and former employees. While more actions
are ongoing than are described here, the following are some of
2013's more notable matters.
In July 2013 the Ontario Superior Court released its decision in
GM. The Court determined that an employer may modify
benefits after retirement only where the contractual language
clearly grants such a right. In this case, it was determined
that the benefit plan terms were not sufficiently clear to allow
post-retirement benefit amendments.
On January 16, 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada released its
decision in Vivendi Canada Inc. v. Dell'Aniello,
allowing certification of the class action and confirming that a
class proceeding may be authorized where there is a significant and
identical, related or similar question of law or fact to be
determined. A common answer to the question is not required,
just a common question. This litigation addresses the issue
of a unilateral change to a health insurance plan benefiting
retirees and their surviving spouses.
In Scott v.
Canada A motion to dismiss brought by the Attorney General was
denied in September. This class action is receiving media
attention as it concerns disabled veterans seeking to block a
reduction of post-retirement benefits. A certification
application is now expected to proceed in the near future.
The trustees of the Eastern Canada Car Carriers Pension Plan are
responding to allegations of negligence or breach of trust in
granting early retirement benefits for a period of over six years
while the plan was underfunded. The class
proceeding was certified by the Ontario Superior Court in June
2013 and is now moving towards trial.
2013 also saw a few notable settlements and settlement
attempts. Shaw Group Inc. settled for $9.2 million with
respect to a claim for damages brought by former employees
resulting from the Shaw Canada Pension Plan being
underfunded. The settlement was approved by the Ontario
Superior Court on October 9, 2013.
Canada Life Assurance Company agreed to a settlement with
Plaintiffs in a class action brought to determine the ownership of
plan surpluses and to seek damages for alleged breaches of the
plan. However, the parties were surprised when the Court rejected the settlement and deemed
it unfair to some class members. While it is not unusual for
some class members to object to a settlement, the Court made it
clear that it would not approve what it considered an unfair
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