Crown ward lawsuit seeks more plaintiffs

Mary Paterson

Mar 24, 2014

Ashley Csanady, QPBriefing

Lawyers representing former Crown wards in a $110-million lawsuit are appealing to potential plaintiffs to join their cause.

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The two public faces of the class action ─ Holly Papassay and Toni Grann ─ both shared tales of horrific abuse and neglect during their respective stints as Crown wards. Papassay said she was moved from home to home and suffered both physical and sexual abuse that haunts her to this day. Grann more recently joined the class action and detailed her own sexual abuse at the hands of a foster "father." She now has four children of her own, and Papassay has six, and they both want the system reformed for future generations.

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But there are still several hurdles for the lawsuit to clear before it's even certified as a class action.

"I think it is still a very significant step in a case to get certification ... it is not a rubber stamp," Mary Paterson, an expert in class actions with the Osler law firm, said in an interview.

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When considering class actions, "access to justice" is part of the judge's consideration. In a case that involves a vulnerable group ─ such as Crown wards ─ that can be one argument for certification. However, that can also create very complex cases and judges don't want to certify something that could very easily become too unruly for another judge to handle, Paterson explained.

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She stressed that it's extremely difficult to get hard data in Ontario on the number of class actions that are filed due to technological limitations in searching court records and the way the government tracks its information. That said, there are a number of reasons certified cases languish or simply taper off as opposed to succeeding or being dismissed, Paterson said.

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