Parallel Multi-Jurisdictional Class Proceedings: Part III

This post updates our previous blogs on parallel multi-jurisdictional proceedings in Saskatchewan.

Those blogs discussed the ability for plaintiffs from other jurisdictions in parallel class proceedings to attend a certification application in Saskatchewan to argue the Saskatchewan Court should stand down in favour of its jurisdiction.

We previously commented on the case of Ammazzini v Anglo American PLC, 2016 SKQB 53 (Ammazzini #1) that considered s. 6(2) of The Class Actions Act in determining whether it was more preferable to determine the class claims in Saskatchewan or the jurisdiction of a parallel proposed class action in Ontario.

In Ammazzini #1, Justice Currie ordered a conditional stay of a putative multi-jurisdictional class action in Saskatchewan found to be essentially duplicative of the proceedings in Ontario. Other factors considered in the analysis included the status and go-forward plans of the Ontario plaintiff who the judge felt had done the “heavy lifting” in the proposed class proceedings – despite the fact that the Saskatchewan plaintiff had reached the certification application stage first.

Justice Currie ordered the stay on a conditional basis pending certification proceedings in Ontario. The Court of Appeal upheld the substance of the Justice Currie’s decision in Ammazzini v Anglo American PLC, 2016 SKCA 164 (Ammazzini #2).

More recently, the matter came back before Justice Currie in the form of a request for a permanent stay, which was granted in a decision reported at Ammazzini v Anglo American PLC, 2019 SKQB 60 (Ammazzini #3).

Following Ammazzini #1 and #2, the parallel Ontario action had been certified and settled contingently upon obtaining either a dismissal or a permanent stay of the Saskatchewan action.

In Ammazzini #3, Justice Currie reasoned that the question of whether it was preferable to permanently stay the action in favour of the Ontario proceedings was inextricably linked with the fairness and reasonableness of the Ontario settlement to the proposed class members in the Ammazzini action.

The Ontario plaintiff did not seek formal approval of the Settlement Agreement from the Saskatchewan Court. However, permanently staying the Ammazzini action meant that its proposed class members would participate in the Ontario settlement. As a result, Justice Currie proceeded through a traditional settlement approval analysis, and the Saskatchewan plaintiff essentially took on the role as an objector to the settlement. The judge went on to find the evidence and arguments of the Saskatchewan plaintiff to be unpersuasive in this respect.

In addition to satisfying himself that the Settlement Agreement was fair and reasonable for the proposed Ammazzini class members, Justice Currie examined whether the initial basic foundation for granting the conditional stay remained in place. In particular, he considered whether the Ammazzani action was duplicative of the Ontario action.

In an attempt to address this issue, the Saskatchewan plaintiff amended the class definition to a longer period used in the Ontario Settlement Agreement. Justice Currie considered that to be a superficial difference and concluded that the Ammazzani action remained duplicative and served no legitimate purpose, as a proposed class action, in the circumstances before him. As a result, he permanently stayed the Ammazzini proposed class action.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.