The lawyer leading a potential class action lawsuit against the Freedom Convoy wants to expand the list of defendants to include all of the truckers who occupied Ottawa earlier this year, as well as anyone who donated to fund the protest.
If successful, the legal maneuver could make the owners of about 400 trucks and tens of thousands of donors financially liable for a share of $300 million in damages sought by the lawsuit.
Lawyer Paul Champ first filed the lawsuit in February, naming civil servant Zexi Li, who lives in downtown Ottawa, as representative of a class of residents who claim to have suffered from noise and disruption caused by hundreds of trucks parked on city streets for three years. weeks.
Champ then added representative plaintiffs from two Ottawa businesses and employees from other downtown businesses as additional classes of plaintiffs, meaning they could split damages if the court certifies the classes and if the litigation succeeds.
The lawsuit initially named Tamara Lich, Tom Marazzo, Chris Barber and other convoy organizers as defendants, along with unnamed truckers and donors “John Doe” and “Jane Doe”.
Now, Champ has brought an unusual motion to add two classes of defendants to the litigation, potentially making liable anyone who brought their truck to the Ottawa protest or contributed money through crowdfunding sites like GiveSendGo or GoFundMe.
In a claim filed in the Ontario Superior Court, Champ identifies the operator of an Ontario trucking company and a New Brunswick businessman as representatives of the two defendant groups.
The petition identifies Brad Howland, of Kars, New Brunswick, as a representative defendant from a group of potential donors. He owns Easy Kleen Pressure Systems Ltd., which donated “US$75,000 on or about February 9, 2022 to GiveSendGo to support, encourage and facilitate” the protest, according to the motion.
Howland confirmed to CTV News that his company donated to the convoy, but he says he doesn’t know where it ended.
“The money was meant to support and pay for the expenses of people who gave so much time to raise their voices and their time to explain how we want freedom in the country,” he said.
Howland said he had heard rumors that he might be drawn into the litigation, but wasn’t sure until contacted by CTV News.
The motion also seeks to add Harold Jonker of Caistor Centre, Ontario as a representative defendant. He claims that his company, Jonker Trucking, “owned at least 11 semi-tractor trucks that were driven to Ottawa and used to participate in the criminal activities of the Freedom Convoy protest.”
Jonker could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Many of the convoy defendants at trial testify before the Public Order Emergency Commission which is currently investigating the federal government’s use of the Emergency Measures Act to end the protests.
Champ is also appearing at the inquest on behalf of a coalition of downtown Ottawa residents and businesses. Li testified during the first week of the investigative hearings.
None of the defendants named in the lawsuit have yet filed a defense and none of the allegations have been proven in court.
Champ and other attorneys working on the case successfully froze millions of dollars donated through crowdfunding sites. The money is blocked pending resolution of the case.
Champ also used Li’s lawsuit to successfully obtain an injunction to stop truckers from blasting truck and train horns.
Plaintiffs still face major legal hurdles, to certify about 24,000 downtown residents as a class, and now, to certify additional defendant classes.
Even if the plaintiffs eventually win a judgment in court, to collect damages they will have to prove that the individuals belong to the defendant classes.
Complainants should rely on the huge number of photos and videos posted on social media to identify individual truckers who took part in the protests. They could also use donor records from crowdsourcing platforms to identify members of the defendant donor class.
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