Application for certification granted with costs. A class action will go forward to sue an Albertan lawyer who was disbarred for his misconduct in managing IRS files.
This is an application by the Plaintiffs for certification of a class action pursuant to s 5 of the Class Proceedings Act [“CPA”]. It concerns the alleged mishandling of approximately 5600 residential school claims by former Calgary lawyer, David Blott, on behalf of Aboriginal clients who were signed up to retain Blott by the form filling efforts of Honour Walk Ltd. Mr. Blott was reported to have received 21 million dollars for his firm’s services. The absolute failure of Blott to provide individualized legal services to the Plaintiffs in the Residential School Class Action is well documented in judicial decisions (Fontaine v Canada (AG), 2012 BCSC 839 and 2012 BCSC 1671). He had set up his practice in such a way as to maximize profit and minimize the effort required.
In order for the Court to certify these proceedings, it must be satisfied that the conditions set out in the CPA have been met, but be construed generously. An overly restrictive approach must be avoided in order to realize the benefits, such as judicial economy, access to justice and behavior modification and so on, by those who cause harm at the certification stage (Hollick v Metropolitan Toronto (Municipality), 2001 SCC 68) [“Hollick”]; Cloud v Canada (AG), (2004) 73 OR (3d) 401 (ONCA)).
The statement of claim disclosed a cause of action. The next condition for certification required an identifiable class that should be defined independently of the merits of the action (Western Canadian Shopping Centres Inc v Dutton, 2001 SCC 46). This definition included those who retained the Blott Defendants arising out of the residential school experience and should not be unnecessarily broad (Hollick). The way in which the Blott Defendants arranged Mr. Blott’s practice essentially ruled out the possibility of a solicitor and client relationship, which Mr. Blott’s clients were entitled to expect. The Court is satisfied that there is an identifiable class.
There is a common issue among this identifiable class of an experience of being largely ignored and exploited. It turned what was supposed to provide reconciliation and closure into another traumatic experience. It would appear that most of Mr. Blott’s clients will have had very similar complaints and circumstances. The fact that some of them may have been affected differently does not mean there are no common issues. The Court is satisfied that the condition of a common issue for certification has been met.
Thousands of innocent people retained Blott to seek justice for them, as part of a class of residential school attendees. This class of people are vulnerable and for the most part, impecunious. As with the resolving of the residential school claims through a class proceeding, it is hard to see how justice can ever be obtained for the Blott clients other than through another class proceeding. It is important to proceed with their claims as a class because, like the residential school claims, it will be useful to establish standards and a basis for comparison when one does analyze the quantum of each claim.
The law firm acting on behalf of the Plaintiff class is doing this on a pro-bono basis, and there can be no doubt that the efficiency of dealing with all the claims in this way is far superior to numerous individual claims. The Court is satisfied that a class proceeding is the preferable procedure for this action.