Quebec Court approves clarifying affidavit, denies broader evidence in price-fixing class action

The court stressed the need for relevant evidence at the authorization stage of a class action

Quebec Court approves clarifying affidavit, denies broader evidence in price-fixing class action

The Quebec Superior Court ruled on a class action application alleging a price-fixing conspiracy, approving one company's request to file a clarifying affidavit but denying another's broader evidence submission, stressing the need for relevant evidence at the authorization stage.

Elias Karras filed a class action application and sought authorization to represent Quebec residents who purchased certain meat products. The application alleged a price-fixing conspiracy involving Maple Leaf Foods Inc. and other defendants, based on an email dated March 22, 2007, sent by Michael McCain of Maple Leaf Foods. This email surfaced during the Competition Bureau’s investigation into the "bread cartel."

Karras claimed the defendants participated in a price-fixing scheme for the meat products mentioned in the email. Wal-Mart Canada Corp. and Maple Leaf Foods filed applications under Article 574 of the Code of Civil Procedure to submit additional evidence.

Wal-Mart sought to file a sworn statement by Joanna Gallagher, vice president at Wal-Mart Canada, to clarify inaccuracies regarding a Walmart employee’s involvement in the alleged conspiracy. Maple Leaf Foods wanted to submit a sworn statement by their attorney, Nathalie Grand’Pierre, along with several exhibits to counter the allegations.

The Superior Court approved Wal-Mart's request to file the Gallagher Affidavit, which aims to correct the misinformation in the application. Although Karras did not oppose this affidavit, the court emphasized its importance in verifying the authorization criteria. The court permitted Karras to cross-examine Gallagher, limiting the deposition to one hour and allowing it to occur via videoconference or in person.

Conversely, the court denied Maple Leaf’s request to file the Grand’Pierre Affidavit, stating it fell outside the permissible scope of evidence at the authorization stage. The court highlighted that the affidavit contained internet searches and legal arguments that did not fit the criteria for necessary and relevant evidence. However, the court allowed Maple Leaf to file certain public documents related to the case, provided they were submitted only to establish their existence and public availability.

The court reiterated the principles guiding the submission of evidence at the class action authorization stage, emphasizing that such evidence must be limited, proportionate, and relevant to the criteria outlined in Article 575 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The decision underscored the court’s role in preventing the authorization phase from becoming a full-fledged trial, focusing instead on screening for cases that meet the necessary threshold for proceeding as a class action.

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