This lawsuit was commenced in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on behalf of all Sunoco service station operators in Ontario against Suncor Energy Products Inc. and its parent company Suncor Energy Inc.
The lawsuit follows on Suncor’s internal announcement in January 2010 of its intention to terminate the retailer franchise agreements of all 300 of its independent Sunoco retailers in Ontario. Approximately 104 retail sites were closed April, 2010 while the remaining sites were re-branded under the Petro-Canada banner with different operators. All Sunoco retailers have been terminated in the process.
The lawsuit asserts that Suncor failed to comply with Ontario’s franchise legislation when the retailers entered into their most recent franchise agreements. This may entitle the retailers to rescind their franchise agreements and obtain substantial compensation.
The termination of the Sunoco retailers is part of Suncor’s decision to eliminate the Sunoco brand in Ontario following Suncor’s amalgamation with Petro-Canada in 2009.
In December 2010 a hearing was held to determine a central legal issue in this case, i.e. whether or not Suncor was required to deliver a disclosure document to each retailer before the retailer signed their most recent Retailer Franchise Agreement. The decision of the judge on the summary judgment motions was released on December 17, 2010. The judge found that Suncor was not required to deliver a disclosure document to the Sunoco retailers and that therefore the retailers had no right to rescind the Retailer Franchise Agreement. He therefore dismissed the case. A subsequent appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal was dismissed on September 27, 2011. The action is dismissed.
- September 27, 2011: The Court of Appeal dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal from the summary judgment decision. The action is dismissed.
- December 17, 2010: A hearing was held to determine a central legal issue in this case, i.e. whether or not Suncor was required to deliver a disclosure document to each retailer before the retailer signed their most recent Retailer Franchise Agreement. The judge found that Suncor was not required to deliver a disclosure document to the Sunoco retailers and that therefore the retailers had no right to rescind the Retailer Franchise Agreement. He therefore dismissed the case.
Court Decisions and Orders
- Decision of the Court of Appeal dismissing claim (Sep 27, 2011)
- Decision of Perell J. granting summary judgment (Dec 17, 2010)
FP: Franchise Class Actions on the Rise
The Financial Post recently featured Sotos LLP and interviewed David Sterns in an article on franchise class actions.
FP: Sunoco retailers seek $200-million
Sunoco retailers in Ontario have launched a class-action lawsuit, seeking up to $200-million, against Suncor Energy Inc.
CBC: Gas retailers sue Suncor over Petro-Can merger
Sunoco gas station owners in Ontario have sued Suncor Energy Inc. for terminating their franchise agreements as a result of the company's merger with Petro-Canada last summer.
Suncor Class Action
Suncor announces termination of all Sunoco retailers in Ontario - Retailers launch class action lawsuit seeking up to $200 million for breach of franchise legislation.
Frequently Asked Questions
A class action is a special form of lawsuit in which one plaintiff brings a claim against one or more defendants based on allegations which are common to a group, or class, of people. In order for the action to become a class action, it must proceed through a stage known as “certification”.
A statement of claim is issued on behalf of a “representative plaintiff”. The representative plaintiff’s role is to work with class counsel to bring the action forward and to represent the class members in court.
In order for an action to proceed on behalf of the entire class, a judge must decide (among other things) whether the members of the proposed class have common issues, and whether a class action is the preferred way to resolve the issues. The process to decide these issues is known as the “certification motion”. If the judge is satisfied that the case meets all of the requirements for certification, he or she will issue an order which certifies the action as a class action.
No. If the lawsuit is certified, and you are included in the class as defined, you are automatically included in the lawsuit.
No. We will work primarily with the class representative.
Those who do not wish to remain in the class will be given the option to opt-out by sending an opt-out form at the appropriate time to us.
Certification as a class action will enable us to prove the facts in a single lawsuit rather than in numerous individual lawsuits. This has obvious benefits to the class members and to the courts.
There is no timeframe. We will move the case forward diligently but it can take a considerable period of time to reach trial.
Many class actions settle and thereby remove the need for a trial. However, we cannot predict with any certainty whether or not there will be a settlement in a given action.
The chances of “winning” can never be accurately predicted.
Class action lawsuits are typically brought on a contingency fee basis. This means that the lawyers will only be paid if the action is successful at trial or results in a settlement in favour of the plaintiffs. Legal fees would then be paid out of the settlement or judgment proceeds as approved by a judge.
Disbursements (i.e. out-of-pocket expenses, including expert reports) may be dealt with in one of two ways.
Most commonly, the lawyers will absorb the cost of disbursements. The lawyers may seek funding assistance from the Class Proceeding Fund, which may provide funding for disbursements if granted.
In some cases, disbursements may be funded by the class members, including the class representative. This typically occurs in smaller class actions brought on behalf of an organization or network of individuals where each member of the class is easily identifiable and known to the representative plaintiff. If the class action is successful, amounts advanced for disbursements are re-paid from the proceeds of any judgment or settlement to class members (and others).
Only the class representative may be liable for costs of the common issues portion of the action if it is unsuccessful.
A “payout” or an award for damages is never certain.
The action may settle or it may proceed to trial, at which time a judge will determine the amount of damages, if any, to which the class members are entitled to. Regardless, the amount of “payout” cannot be predicted, and we cannot predict when the action may settle or when the trial will conclude.
If the lawsuit is certified as a class action, you will receive a formal notice from the court explaining the nature of the case and providing you with the opportunity to opt out if you wish. General information about the lawsuit will be posted on Sotos LLP’s website at https://www.sotosclassactions.com.
We ask that you keep a copy of any documents, correspondences, records, invoices, receipts, etc. that you feel might be relevant to your individual claim in the class action. If there is a “payout,” this documentation may be required in order to support your claim for compensation.
It is not required that you send any documents to us at this time.
This Class Action is Closed
This class action is closed.