General Motors Dealers Class Action - Sotos Class Actions

General Motors

In May 2009, approximately 200 General Motors dealers were eliminated in connection with the federal auto bailout. This class action lawsuit seeks $750 million in damages on behalf of those dealers.

The lawsuit claims that General Motors of Canada Limited, a subsidiary of General Motors Company, breached franchise laws in connection with the agreements which GM obtained from the dealers it selected for elimination as part of the federal bailout. The lawsuit claims that many of the dealers have a right under provincial franchise laws to rescind or cancel the agreements and that all dealers have a right to sue for breach of the duty of fair dealing under Ontario’s franchise statute. The bailout was the largest government subsidy given to a corporation in Canadian history.

Also named in the suit is Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP (“CBB”), a Canadian law firm which had been retained in advance to represent Canadian dealers in a GM restructuring or bankruptcy. The claim alleges that CBB failed to disclose to the dealers that it was simultaneously acting for the Canadian Government in the GM auto bailout and that it breached its duties to the dealers.

The representative plaintiff, Trillium Motor World Ltd. of Toronto Ontario, brought the action under Ontario’s Class Proceedings Act, 1992. The members of the proposed class include automotive dealerships in every province of Canada.

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  • December 20, 2018:  The Court approved the Notice of Judgment on the quantification of damages and distribution of funds. (English) (French)
  • October 10, 2018: The Court released its decision on the quantification of damages. (English)
  • May 28, 2018: Notice to Class (English) and (French)
  • March 29, 2018: Supreme Court of Canada denied Cassels’ application for leave to appeal.
  • September 28, 2017: Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP has sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • July 4, 2017: The Court of Appeal released its decisions on the appeals.
  • January 9, 2016: The appeals are scheduled to be heard January 16-19, 2017 at the Ontario Court of Appeal.
  • September 23, 2016: The trial judge released his Reasons on the Motion for Security for Costs
  • March 22, 2016:  The trial judge released his cost decisions for the trial: Cost Endorsement
  • March 22, 2016:  The trial judge released further Reasons on the Motion to Settle the Terms on Trial Judgement
  • September 14, 2015: Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP served a Notice of Appeal on August 4, 2015.  The Plaintiff served a Notice of Appeal against General Motors of Canada Limited on August 7, 2015.  The Plaintiff also served a Notice of Cross-Appeal against Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP on August 19, 2015. General Motors of Canada Limited served a Notice of Cross-Appeal on August 20, 2015.
  • July 8, 2015: The judge released the trial decision today. His Honour found that Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP was irresponsible and unprofessional when acting for the class members while in a conflict of interest. He awarded damages against the firm in the amount of $45 million. A separate hearing will take place to determine whether punitive damages should also be awarded.  The judge found that General Motors of Canada Limited (GMCL) did not breach the Arthur Wishart Act (Franchise Disclosure), 2000. Therefore he dismissed the action against GMCL. He also dismissed the counterclaim by GMCL against each of the class members.
  • September 5, 2014: Trial will commence September 9, 2014 at 10:00 am in Courtroom 5-1 at 330 University Ave.
  • August 27, 2013: Trial will commence September 9, 2014 at 10:00 am in Courtroom 5-0 at 330 University Ave.
  • October 22, 2013: Trial is scheduled to begin on September 9, 2014, in Toronto.
  • April 5, 2013: The Canadian Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) sought to prevent Cassels Brock and Blackwell LLP from disclosing documents to the plaintiffs by claiming that the CADA was entitled to assert privilege over those documents. After reviewing the documents, the court ruled that 151 of the 211 documents over which CADA was asserting privilege must be disclosed to the plaintiffs. This is another significant victory in this lawsuit. The plaintiffs are now proceeding to examination for discovery of Cassels Brock. After the discovery is completed, the plaintiffs will ask the court to schedule a date for the common issues trial.
  • January 22, 2013: Sotos LLP has obtained an important rulingfrom the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario granting it access to certain documents relating to the bailout of General Motors of Canada Limited (GMCL). The ruling was made over the objections of Ontario government officials and GMCL. Of particular note is the fact that GMCL argued that the disclosure of the documents would harm them in their ongoing litigation with dealers. The adjudicator ruled that this was not a valid reason to refuse disclosure.A similar appeal is pending before the Federal government and a decision is expected soon.
  • August 24, 2012: The Ontario Court of Appeal has refused to allow further appeal of the certification decision. With all appeal routes now having been exhausted, the case will proceed towards trial.
  • June 7, 2012: Formal notices of certification were mailed to all class members on June 7, 2012.  A copy of the notice of certification can be viewed here.Class members have until August 6, 2012 to deliver a signed and completed opt-out coupon, attached to the notice of certification, if they wish to opt out of the class action.
  • March 23, 2012: The Divisional Court dismissed, in full, the appeals of both GMCL and Cassels Brock. The decisions of the Court can be read here and here.
  • January 12, 2012: An appeal was heard before the Divisional Court in Toronto. Under appeal was whether 2 of the common issues against GMCL were properly certified for a class action, and whether 3 of the issues against Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP were properly certified. Many former GM dealers were in attendance in the courtroom. A decision will be released in the coming months.
  • October 11, 2011: The appeal from the certification order will be heard on January 12, 2012 at Osgoode Hall in Toronto.
  • June 22, 2011: The Honourable Justice W. Low of the Divisional Court granted leave to appeal in part to the defendants. The appeal in the Divisional Court will likely take place in the fall.
  • March 1, 2011: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice released a decision certifying the action as a class proceeding. The class consists of all dealers who signed the wind-down agreements terminating their franchises.







David Sterns

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