General Motors Overview
In May 2009, approximately 200 General Motors dealers were eliminated in connection with the federal auto bailout. This class action lawsuit seeks $750 million in damages on behalf of those dealers.The lawsuit claims that General Motors of Canada Limited, a subsidiary of General Motors Company, breached franchise laws in connection with the agreements which GM obtained from the dealers it selected for elimination as part of the federal bailout. The lawsuit claims that many of the dealers have a right under provincial franchise laws to rescind or cancel the agreements and that all dealers have a right to sue for breach of the duty of fair dealing under Ontario’s franchise statute. The bailout was the largest government subsidy given to a corporation in Canadian history.
Also named in the suit is Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP (“CBB”), a Canadian law firm which had been retained in advance to represent Canadian dealers in a GM restructuring or bankruptcy. The claim alleges that CBB failed to disclose to the dealers that it was simultaneously acting for the Canadian Government in the GM auto bailout and that it breached its duties to the dealers.
The representative plaintiff, Trillium Motor World Ltd. of Toronto Ontario, brought the action under Ontario’s Class Proceedings Act, 1992. The members of the proposed class include automotive dealerships in every province of Canada.
On March 1, 2011, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice released a decision certifying the action as a class proceeding. The class consists of all dealers who signed the wind-down agreements terminating their franchises.
The defendants CBB and General Motors appealed the certification decision to the Divisional Court, but were unsuccessful on all counts. The Court unanimously upheld the decision of the motion judge in certifying the class proceeding. The trial is scheduled to begin on September 9, 2014.
General Motors Updates
- September 28, 2017: Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP has sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
- July 4, 2017: The Court of Appeal released its decisions on the appeals.
- January 9, 2016: The appeals are scheduled to be heard January 16-19, 2017 at the Ontario Court of Appeal.
- September 23, 2016: The trial judge released his Reasons on the Motion for Security for Costs
- March 22, 2016: The trial judge released his cost decisions for the trial: Cost Endorsement
- March 22, 2016: The trial judge released further Reasons on the Motion to Settle the Terms on Trial Judgement
- September 14, 2015: Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP served a Notice of Appeal on August 4, 2015. The Plaintiff served a Notice of Appeal against General Motors of Canada Limited on August 7, 2015. The Plaintiff also served a Notice of Cross-Appeal against Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP on August 19, 2015. General Motors of Canada Limited served a Notice of Cross-Appeal on August 20, 2015.
- July 8, 2015: The judge released the trial decision today. His Honour found that Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP was irresponsible and unprofessional when acting for the class members while in a conflict of interest. He awarded damages against the firm in the amount of $45 million. A separate hearing will take place to determine whether punitive damages should also be awarded. The judge found that General Motors of Canada Limited (GMCL) did not breach the Arthur Wishart Act (Franchise Disclosure), 2000. Therefore he dismissed the action against GMCL. He also dismissed the counterclaim by GMCL against each of the class members.
- September 5, 2014: Trial will commence September 9, 2014 at 10:00 am in Courtroom 5-1 at 330 University Ave.
- August 27, 2013: Trial will commence September 9, 2014 at 10:00 am in Courtroom 5-0 at 330 University Ave.
- October 22, 2013: Trial is scheduled to begin on September 9, 2014, in Toronto.
- April 5, 2013: The Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) sought to prevent Cassels Brock and Blackwell LLP from disclosing documents to the plaintiffs by claiming that the CADA was entitled to assert privilege over those documents. After reviewing the documents, the court ruled that 151 of the 211 documents over which CADA was asserting privilege must be disclosed to the plaintiffs. This is another significant victory in this lawsuit. The plaintiffs are now proceeding to examination for discovery of Cassels Brock. After the discovery is completed, the plaintiffs will ask the court to schedule a date for the common issues trial.
- January 22, 2013: Sotos LLP has obtained an important rulingfrom the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario granting it access to certain documents relating to the bailout of General Motors of Canada Limited (GMCL). The ruling was made over the objections of Ontario government officials and GMCL. Of particular note is the fact that GMCL argued that the disclosure of the documents would harm them in their ongoing litigation with dealers. The adjudicator ruled that this was not a valid reason to refuse disclosure.A similar appeal is pending before the Federal government and a decision is expected soon.
- August 24, 2012: The Ontario Court of Appeal has refused to allow further appeal of the certification decision. With all appeal routes now having been exhausted, the case will proceed towards trial.
- June 7, 2012: Formal notices of certification were mailed to all class members on June 7, 2012. A copy of the notice of certification can be viewed here.Class members have until August 6, 2012 to deliver a signed and completed opt-out coupon, attached to the notice of certification, if they wish to opt out of the class action.Les avis formels annonçant que le recours collectif est certifié ont été envoyés par la poste à tous les membres du groupe le 7 juin 2012. Vous pouvez consulter une copie de l’avis annonçant que le recours collectif est certifié en cliquant ici.Les membres du groupe qui désirent se retirer du recours collectif ont jusqu’au 6 août 2012 pour envoyer le coupon de retrait qui est joint à l’avis annonçant que le recours collectif est certifé, lequel doit être rempli et signé.
- March 23, 2012: The Divisional Court dismissed, in full, the appeals of both GMCL and Cassels Brock. The decisions of the Court can be read here and here.
- January 12, 2012: An appeal was heard before the Divisional Court in Toronto. Under appeal was whether 2 of the common issues against GMCL were properly certified for a class action, and whether 3 of the issues against Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP were properly certified. Many former GM dealers were in attendance in the courtroom. A decision will be released in the coming months.
- October 11, 2011: The appeal from the certification order will be heard on January 12, 2012 at Osgoode Hall in Toronto.
- June 22, 2011: The Honourable Justice W. Low of the Divisional Court granted leave to appeal in part to the defendants. The appeal in the Divisional Court will likely take place in the fall.
- March 1, 2011: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice released a decision certifying the action as a class proceeding. The class consists of all dealers who signed the wind-down agreements terminating their franchises.
NOTICE TO CLASS
- Reasons of the Court of Appeal (GMCL) [ONCA545] (July 4, 2017)
- Reasons of the Court of Appeal (CBB) [ONCA544] (July 4, 2017)
- Notice to Class (June 7, 2012)
- Avis annonçant que le recours collectif est certifié (le 7 juin 2012)
- Statement of claim (February 12, 2010)
- Déclaration (12 février 2010)
- Statement of defence (Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP) (April 29, 2011)
- Statement of defence of Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP (version française)
- Statement of defence and counterclaim (GM Canada Ltd.) (May 2, 2011)
- Statement of defence and counterclaim (GM Canada Ltd.) (Version française)
- Reply to Cassels Brock defence (June 17, 2011)
- Réponse à la défense de Cassels Brock (17 juin 2011)
- Third party claim of Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP (December 23, 2011)
- Mise en cause de Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP (modifée) (23 décembre 2011)
- Reply and defence to counterclaim to GMCL defence (May 1, 2012)
- Réponse et défense à demande reconventionnelle de GMCL (1 mai, 2012)
- Amended Amended Statement of claim
- Déclaration Modifiée Modifiée
APPEALS OF TRIAL DECISION
- Notice of Appeal (Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP) (August 4, 2015)
- Notice of Appeal (against GMCL) (August 7, 2015)
- Notice of Cross-Appeal (against Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP) (August 19, 2015)
- Notice of Cross-Appeal (GMCL) (August 20, 2015)
- Factum of the Appellant, Trillium Motor World Ltd. (June 6, 2016)
- Factum of the Appellant, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP (June 6, 2016)
COURT DECISIONS AND ORDERS
- Reasons on the Motion for Security for Costs
- Cost Endorsement
- Reasons on the Motion to Settle the Terms on Trial Judgement
- Trial decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (July 8, 2015)
- Endorsement of Justice Belobaba on CADA privilege motion (April 5, 2013)
- Décision du juge Belobaba datée du 5 avril 2013
- Reasons from Provincial FOI appeal (Jan 22, 2013)
- Endorsement of Justice Belobaba on waiver motion (Nov 16, 2012)
- Version française des motifs du juge Belobaba en date du 16 novembre 2012
- Reasons of Divisional Court dismissing Cassels Brock & Blackwell’s appeal (Mar 26, 2012)
- Décision de la Cour divisionnaire dans l’appel de Cassels Brock (26 mar 2012)
- Reasons of Divisional Court dismissing GM Canada Ltd.’s appeal (Mar 26, 2012)
- Décision de la Cour divisionnaire dans l’appel de GMCL (26 mar 2012)
- Reasons of Justice Low granting appeal to Divisional Court (June 22, 2011)
- Décision de Madame le juge Low (version française) (22 juin 2011)
- Certification Order (Mar 1, 2011)
- Reasons of Justice Strathy certifying the action as a class proceeding
- Raisons de la Cour Supérieure de Justice (version française)
GM Motors News
Court of Appeal refuses to allow further appeal in GM/Cassels Brock class action
The Ontario Court of Appeal has denied leave to appeal in the ongoing class action against General Motors of Canada Limited and the law firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell. The defendants have now exhausted all appeal routes for the certification decision and the case will proceed toward trial.
Maclean's - Uncivil Law
A top Bay Street law firm is suing 164 other lawyers—many from small towns across the country—in an epic legal battle unlike any before it in Canada
Case Update: Leave to Appeal Granted
On June 22, 2011, the Honourable Justice W. Low of the Divisional Court granted leave to appeal in part to the defendants.
GM class action certification in the news
Several media outlets have published stories about the Ontario Superior Court of Justice's decision last week to certify a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of all former General Motors dealers who were terminated in connection with the federal auto bailout.
Court allows class action suit to proceed against GM Canada and Cassels Brock
An Ontario court granted class action status to a lawsuit by over 200 former Canadian GM auto dealers terminated in connection with GM's 2009 auto bailout by the Governments of Canada and Ontario.
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.