A proposed class action has been filed a mere six weeks after
the BC government introduced amendments to the Property
Transfer Tax Act to impose an additional 15% tax on the
purchase of residential properties by foreign entities in the
Greater Vancouver Regional District (the "Foreign Buyer
Property Tax"). This legislation, and the issue of
foreign buyers in Vancouver, has received significant news coverage
in the local and national media. This case is a prime example of a
company/entity being at a high risk of being a class action
target where it has received significant publicity/news
On September 19, 2016, the plaintiff, Jing Li, filed a proposed
class action against the BC government on behalf of foreign
entities who are nationals of treaty countries, who purchased
residential property in the Greater Vancouver Regional District,
and who paid or will pay the Foreign Buyer Property Tax. The
plaintiff also proposes subclasses comprising foreign entities who
paid the tax and who are nationals of other countries listed.
The plaintiff is a citizen of the People's Republic of
China. She entered into a contract to purchase property in Langley,
British Columbia for $559,000. She claims that she is now obligated
to pay an additional $83,850 in tax pursuant to Foreign
Buyer Property Tax.
The plaintiff alleges that the Foreign Buyer Property Tax is
unconstitutional, that it violates multiple international tax
treaties, and that the BC government has been unjustly enriched by
the receipt of the Foreign Buyer Property Tax. The plaintiff seeks
an order of restitution of all amounts collected by the BC
government on account of the tax.
This case is a cautionary tale for companies/governments that
may be at risk of being a class action target if they have received
significant publicity/news coverage.
If a business is receiving positive media
attention, for example, for recent successes, innovation, being a
leader in the industry, or a change to a business approach or
model, plaintiff-side class action lawyers may seek creative ways
to target the business in a class action related to those
If a business is receiving negative media
attention, for example in the event of a product recall or recent
failure, it is more likely to become a target for a class
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