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.