Professor Jasminka Kalajdzic announces launch of the Class Action Clinic at Windsor Law
Class actions are one of the most high-profile and far-reaching legal procedures in the Canadian justice system. In the last 25 years, approximately 1,500 class action lawsuits have been launched in Ontario alone, and thousands more in the rest of Canada. Hundreds of new class actions are filed every year, and millions of dollars in compensation are available to class members in class action settlements. And yet, the people most affected by this litigation – the class members – do not always have easy access to information about these lawsuits, their role in them, or who to turn to for assistance.
A new legal clinic in Windsor aims to fill this void in the class action landscape. The Class Action Clinic at Windsor Law is the first clinic of its kind in North America. The clinic’s focus is on class members – the people who are part of a large civil lawsuit launched on their behalf by representative plaintiffs and class counsel. The Class Action Clinic has received start-up funding from The Law Foundation of Ontario and is staffed with a team of Windsor Law students and a clinic director who will provide class members summary advice, assistance with filing claims in settlement distribution processes, and representation in court proceedings. The Clinic is also dedicated to creating greater awareness about class actions, through public education, outreach, and research. Because they serve class members across Canada, the clinic provides its services online, by telephone and by video conference, as well as in-person for those located in the Windsor–Essex community.
“The ultimate objective of the clinic is to provide substantive access to justice to class members and in doing so, better fulfill the access to justice promise of the class action regime,” says Professor Jasminka Kalajdzic, the clinic director. “Class counsel do not have a traditional lawyer-client relationship with class members, as a matter of law and practicality. The Class Action Clinic will provide legal support to this unique group of litigants.”
The Class Action Clinic will also maintain a central database of class actions, including information about the outcomes of these cases. As Andrew Pinto, chair of Law Commission of Ontario Board of Governors, and Hon. Stephen Goudge, chair of the LCO Class Action Reference Group put it, “the clinic will support the legal needs of class members in a manner that simply is not available in Ontario today. We believe the clinic is the natural ‘home’ for the first and only comprehensive database of class actions in Ontario. This makes the clinic an invaluable, ongoing resource to class members, counsel, academics and justice system policy makers for many years to come.”
“Class actions are high profile and impactful legal procedures which have grown in number and complexity over the years,” adds Windsor Law Dean Christopher Waters. “They serve an important purpose but often leave an access to justice gap for individual class members: this new clinic will help fill that gap.”
Dean Waters continues, “Windsor Law has always been a leader in clinical legal education and this clinic builds on that legacy. The director of the clinic, Professor Kalajdzic, is the leading Canadian academic lawyer working in this area, and we are thrilled to launch the clinic under her leadership.”