After more than a year of living with COVID-19, many people may have forgotten about some of the issues faced by people at the outset of the pandemic. While international travel has not been an issue for most people since March 2020, there were thousands of Canadians who had planned vacations or trips that had to be cancelled. Additionally, there were many Canadians who scrambled to find ways home after many airlines ceased operations. A recent decision issued by the Provincial Court of Alberta shows that relief for customers who want air carriers to refund their purchases may have to wait until class action lawsuits are handled.
Plaintiff seeks cash refund
The plaintiff in the issue was a man who purchased four tickets for his family to return to Canada at a cost of $12,929.94. They were purchased on March 20, 2020 with a planned travel date of March 30, 2020. However, the flight was cancelled on March 25, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plaintiff’s family still wanted to return to Canada, however, so they purchased tickets from another carrier. As a result of this, the plaintiff asked Air Canada to refund his tickets, but the company only offered a travel voucher equal to the value of the tickets. The issue wound up before the court after the Air Canada asked the court to stay his civil action while class action authorizations underway throughout Canada continued to be dealt with. Air Canada argued the matter might be better handled through one of the class action suits.
Should the plaintiff be made to wait for class action lawsuits to move forward?
Air Canada told the court that five class actions were in motion across the country, with each of them proposing that refunds in the original form of payment be given to passengers whose flights were cancelled due to COVID-19. Participants in the class actions also sought general, nominal, and punitive damages.
The court noted that the Alberta Rules of Court allow the court to stay an action if 2 or more actio0ns have a common question of law or fact, or if they “arise out of the same transaction or occurrence or series of transactions or occurrences.” In order to determine this, the court needed to ask the following questions:
- Whether there is substantial overlap of issues in the 2 proceedings;
- Whether the 2 cases share the same factual background;
- Whether issuing a temporary stay will prevent unnecessary and costly duplication of judicial and legal resources; and
- Whether the temporary stay will result in an injustice to the party resisting the stay.
In this case, the court found that the plaintiff’s lawsuit met the standards set out in the test. Even though none of the class actions have been authorized yet, that was not seen as enough of a boundary to stay Air Canada’s application. Additionally, the court found the plaintiff did not establish that a temporary stay would result in an injustice to him. Because of these reasons, the plaintiff’s action was temporarily stayed.
The Advocacy Team at HMC Lawyers has over 130 years of combined experience advising clients and litigating on their behalf. Our lawyers know that strategic action at an early stage can help settle matters early and expeditiously, and help prevent prolonged and expensive litigation. We work closely with clients to help them make good business decisions when facing a legal dispute.
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