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CIVIL PROCEDURE - Class or representative actions - Certification

Tuesday, June 19, 2018 @ 10:14 AM  

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Appeals by the parties to a proposed class action in respect of a partial certification order. The plaintiffs were current and former Western Hockey League (WHL) players who alleged unlawful denial of employment status and associated benefits, including statutory minimum wage. The order under appeal certified a proposed class action with respect to certain Canadian WHL clubs, but held that it would not be the preferable procedure for adjudicating class members' claims against WHL clubs based in the United States. The defendants appealed the whole of the certification order. In addition, the owners of WHL teams based in British Columbia appealed on the basis that the plaintiffs' sole avenue of recourse for their claims was a complaint to the Director of Employment Standards under the Employment Standards Act. The plaintiffs appealed, seeking to vary the certification order to include the United States teams and expand the class definition accordingly.

HELD: Appeals dismissed. The chambers judge undertook the correct analysis in concluding that the courts of Canada were unable to make an effective determination of legal rights as between hockey players and their United States teams. Without prejudice to the possibility that further evidence may establish that British Columbia was the preferable jurisdiction for adjudicating the claims related to the teams based in that province, the chambers judge was entitled to find that the determination of the effect of that province's legislation was not plain and obvious. Without prejudice to the possibility of narrowing the common issues upon further evidence or a material change of circumstances, the chambers judge, in allowing the claims to proceed and in framing the common issues, did not misdirect himself on the facts or law sufficient to justify appellate intervention at the present stage.

Walter v. Western Hockey League, [2018] A.J. No. 624, Alberta Court of Appeal, J. Watson, F.L. Schutz and M.G. Crighton JJ.A., May 15, 2018. Digest No. TLD-June112018005