In Raleigh c. Maibec inc., 2016 QCCS 2533, Justice Soldevila refused to authorize a “copycat” class action on behalf of consumers who had purchased wood siding and shingles manufactured by Maibec inc. (“Maibec”), a Quebec company.
The Petitioners were Helen and Steven Raleigh, both American citizens, and Roger Hamel who resides in Quebec. The Petitioners alleged that the wood sidings manufactured by Maibec prematurely deteriorated, that Maibec misrepresented the durability and quality of its products, and that Maibec refused to honour its warranty. The Petitioners alleged breaches of the Quebec Code of Civil Procedure (“CCP”), and the Quebec Consumer Protection Act.
In her reasons, Justice Soldevila noted that the proposed class action was a “copycat” of another class action commenced in the United States in 2011, and that the Petitioners had put forth a very minimal effort to present their motion.
Justice Soldevila held that the proposed class action could not be authorized on multiple grounds, including the following:
- The Petitioners did not present any facts that detailed why the product was deficient, what the common manufacturing defect was amongst all of the different products, or how long these defects had existed. Concerning the alleged misrepresentation about the warranty, the Court found that the Petitioners did not even choose the product that was to be used as siding for their houses.
- The class composition was much too large as it was not limited territorially or temporally: it covered all of Canada as well as the United States, and included all of the products manufactured during the 70 years since Maibec has been in operation.
- The Petitioners failed to present proof of similarities in the relevant legislation applicable in the multiple jurisdictions, such as legislation regarding civil liability, prescription and consumer protection. In other words, the Court held that the Petitioners were attempting to bite off more than they could chew in one class action.
- The Petitioners were not suitable representatives for the class since the Raleighs replaced the alleged defective siding of their house with the exact same siding, and Mr. Hamel refused to implead his contractor due to personal reasons.
Justice Soldevila concluded that the facts alleged were so minimal and imprecise that she was unable to conclude that the four criteria for authorization were met. She concluded her judgment by saying that if the Petitioners believed they were betting on the fastest horse by filing an authorization motion in Quebec, they should have at least chosen a horse that knew where to go…
This decision supports the contention that Petitioners should think twice before copying class actions in other jurisdictions, especially if they do so in an attempt to “forum-shop” for the quickest route to certification/authorization. Courts will be paying close attention to the effort and work put in by the Petitioners to present a workable class action that meets the authorization criteria.