Case Law

Maintenance and Champerty in Canada

Discussions about third-party funding often raise questions about the common law doctrines of maintenance and champerty. This article sets out how third-party funding fits into the Canadian legal landscape, in light of the history and evolution of maintenance and champerty. As set out in the article, the principles of maintenance and champerty do not prohibit third-party funding, which has been accepted by Canadian courts in both single-party and class action cases.

Origins of the Doctrines

As the Ontario Court of Appeal has explained, "[m]aintenance is directed against those who, for an improper motive, often described as wanton or officious intermeddling, become involved with disputes (litigation) of others in which the maintainer has no interest whatsoever. Champerty is an egregious form of maintenance in which there is the added element that the maintainer shares in the profits of the litigation"1.

The prohibitions against maintenance and champerty emerged in the medieval era and were designed to prevent influential nobles from lending their good names and wealth to frivolous lawsuits.

Champerty and maintenance were crimes in Canada until the abolition of common law crimes in 19532. They remain torts in the common law jurisdictions of Canada, although they are most often invoked as a "shield" against the enforcement of an agreement, rather than as a "sword"3.

Early Judicial Interpretation in Canada

From the earliest reported cases in Canada, courts were reluctant to apply the doctrines of maintenance and champerty strictly. Courts have long relied on the requirement of an "improper motive" on the part of the funder to relax the prohibitions in appropriate cases.

Beginning in 1907, in Newswander v Giegerich4, the Supreme Court of Canada emphasized that maintenance and champerty were confined to cases of improper motive where the third party was "stirring up strife." The Court noted that in many instances, meritorious cases would not be advanced without help from outsider:

It would indeed at the present day be a startling proposition to put forward that every one was guilty of the crime of maintenance who assisted another in bringing or maintaining an action, irrespective of the results or merits of such action and whether the courts sustained it or not. Many grasping, rich men and soulless corporations would greedily welcome such a determination of the law, because it would enable them successfully to ignore and refuse the claims of every poor man who had not sufficient means himself to prosecute his case in the courts.

Three decades later in Goodman v R5, Goodman was charged with champerty after agreeing to assist a poor man injured by a streetcar in exchange for a share of any proceeds. Goodman’s assistance consisted of locating witnesses to the event, and the plaintiff had consulted a lawyer before Goodman became involved. The Supreme Court of Canada quashed his conviction and held that his conduct did not amount to "officious intermeddling" as he had not "stirred up strife."

An important development occurred with the decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Buday v Locator of Missing Heirs Inc6. That case recognized that a bona fide business arrangement that did not "stir up" litigation was not necessarily champertous. In other words, a commercial motive was not necessarily an "improper motive."

The Approval of Contingency Fee Arrangements

The prohibitions against maintenance and champerty had long restricted lawyers from acting on a contingency fee basis. In the seminal case of McIntyre Estate7, the Ontario Court of Appeal held that a contingency fee arrangement was not per se champertous. In so doing, the court endorsed a flexible approach to maintenance and champerty:

[L]awyers' contingency fee agreements are not per se prohibited by the Champerty Act. However, in my view, that does not end the analysis that is required to determine if a particular agreement is champertous. It remains to be decided whether the lawyer had an improper motive in entering into the allegedly champertous agreement. In assessing the lawyer's motive, a court should consider, among other things, the reasonableness and fairness of the fee structure in the contingency fee agreement.Ontario subsequently passed the Contingency Fee Regulations9, pursuant to which lawyers’ contingency fees are capped at 50%, although it can be higher with leave of the Court.10

Third-Party Funding of Class Action Litigation

Courts turned again to the principles underlying maintenance and champerty in a series of decisions regarding third-party funding of class actions.11 In these cases, the funders provided an adverse costs indemnity, and a small amount of disbursement funding, in exchange for a portion of any recovery (for further details on these cases, see "case law").

Under this line of authority, the Court expanded upon the analysis from McIntyre Estate, and concluded that:

  • Third-party funding is not maintenance and champerty per se;
  • The Court must consider the specific terms of an agreement to determine if it is champertous;
  • Third-party funding can provide access to justice for plaintiffs;
  • It is not necessary for a plaintiff to be impecunious in order to seek funding, as funding is a
  • rational means of mitigating risk; and
  • Third-party funding also ensures that the defendant knows its costs will be paid.

The Courts here noted that certain terms in an agreement, including provisions about control and the funder’s recovery, could signal an improper motive, which remains the harbinger of a champertous agreement. Nonetheless, third-party funding of class actions was approved in accordance with these guidelines.

Single-party commercial litigation: Schenk v. Valeant

In May 2015, the Ontario Superior Court extended the principles developed in the class action context to single-party commercial litigation.12 In Schenk v. Valeant, Justice McEwen considered whether the rules against maintenance and champerty prohibited a plaintiff of limited means from contracting with a U.K. funder, who would cover all legal fees and disbursements in exchange for a portion of the recovery. The agreement was conditional upon court approval, which the defendant opposed.

Justice McEwen held that such an agreement was not per se champertous, and there was "no reason why such funding would be inappropriate in the field of commercial litigation."13 However, Justice McEwen expressed concern about two specific provisions of the agreement. First, the terms gave the funder an open-ended and uncertain recovery, such that the plaintiff could not understand what the ultimate cost would be. Second, under the agreement, the funder could have received "lion’s share" or even all of the recovery. Justice McEwen allowed the plaintiff and the funder to revise the agreement to change these aspects of it, and subsequently approved the amended agreement.

Reconciling Maintenance and Champerty Laws with Litigation Funding Today

The case law regarding maintenance and champerty has resulted out the following guiding principles:

  1. It remains champertous for a third party to "stir up" litigation. Therefore, in Canada a litigation funder cannot instigate litigation or solicit plaintiffs.
  2. A funding agreement will be champertous if it grants the funder too much control over the litigation. However, a funder can provide advice about strategy, and preserve the right to terminate the agreement under enumerated circumstances.
  3. The returns to a funder should not be "excessive," but can reflect the risk that a funder is bearing. At times, such an agreement may result in a "windfall" for the funder, but a large return is not necessarily excessive in light of the inherent uncertainty and risk of litigation.

As the case law regarding third party funding, and its relationship to maintenance and champerty, continues to develop, we will update this analysis.

supra, 362-363



  1. McIntyre Estate v Ontario (Attorney General) (2002), 61 O.R. (3d) 257 at para 26.
  2. Criminal Code, s. 9.
  3. The unenforceability of champertous agreements is codified in Ontario in An Act Respecting Champerty, RSO 1897, c 327.
  4. [1907] 39 SCR 354.
  5. [1939] SCR 446.
  6. (1993) 16 OR (3d) 257
  7. (2002), 61 O.R. (3d) 257
  8. McIntyre Estate at para 3.
  9. O. Reg. 195/04, s. 7.
  10. Solicitors Act, RSO 1990, c S.15, s. 28.1(6).
  11. Meltzler v. Gildan Activewear, [2009] O.J. No. 3315 (S.C.J.); Dugal v. Manulife Financial Corp. (2011), 105 O.R. (3d) 364 (S.C.J.); Fehr v. Sun Life Assurance Company, 2012 ONSC 2715; Labourers’ Pension Fund v. Sino-Forest, 2012 ONSC 2937; Bayens v. Kinross Gold, 2013 ONSC 4974.
  12. Schenk v. Valeant, 2015 ONSC 3215
  13. Schenk v. Valeant at para. 8.

Drynan v. Bausch Health Companies Inc., (Ontario, August 2020)

The funder agreed to pay disbursements, adverse costs awards and 80% of Class Counsel’s legal fees on an hourly fee basis. If successful, the funder would receive reimbursement of the investment of legal fees, and also a percentage of the proceeds of the action. That is, it is distinct (a) from David v. Loblaws, where the funder received a percentage of the litigation proceeds and reimbursement of its investment, but that investment was only disbursements; and (b) from Walker v. TDL, where the funder paid legal fees as the case progressed, but its return was only a percentage of the litigation proceeds, not reimbursement for the fees it paid.

The Court approved the funding agreement after a series of suggested amendments were made, finding that it was fair and reasonable to the Class and did not overcompensate either the funder or Class Counsel. In addition to receiving 80% of the fees as the matter progresses, Class Counsel can seek court approval of a “top up” for fees, but it would only request an amount that would result in a maximum paid by the class for legal fees (including the portion paid to the funder) of 33.3% of the Proceeds.      

The Court rejected the argument that there was a risk of overcompensation to the funder. It held that there where repayment of the fees and 25% of the proceeds was limited to 33.3% of the Proceeds, the recovery was consistent with the presumptive validity case law, while still allowing for disbursements to be paid from the proceeds, just as occurs with funding from the Class Proceedings Fund. 

View Case

9354-9186 Québec Inc. (Bluberi Gaming Technologies) v. Callidus Capital Corp. (Supreme Court of Canada, January and May 2020)

In January 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously overturned the Quebec Court of Appeal’s decision in this matter, thus reinstating the March 2018 decision of the CCAA Court [see summary below]. Judgment was rendered immediately following the conclusion of oral arguments at the hearing.

The Supreme Court provided its written reasons for judgment in May 2020. Writing on behalf of the Court, Chief Justice Wagner and Justice Moldaver held that the CCAA Court properly exercised its discretion to approve Omni Bridgeway’s LFA after finding it “fair and reasonable”. The LFA was not a plan of arrangement, and did not need to be presented to Bluberi’s creditors for a vote.

The reasons made specific reference to the findings of the judge at first instance, and led the Court to the following conclusions (at paras. 106-107, citations omitted):

  • “that approval of the LFA would assist [Bluberi] in finalizing a plan ‘with a view towards achieving maximum realization’ of its assets; …
  • “that the creditors would not be materially prejudiced by the Litigation Financing Charge … [and] ‘given the particular circumstances of this matter, the only potential recovery lies with the lawsuit that the Debtors will launch’; and
  • “that the [court-appointed] Monitor supported approving the LFA as interim financing.

“In our view, it is apparent that the supervising judge was focussed on the fairness at stake to all parties, the specific objectives of the CCAA [Canada’s insolvency legislation], and the particular circumstances of this case when he approved the LFA as interim financing. We cannot say that he erred in the exercise of his discretion.”

This decision represents a milestone for commercial litigation funding in Canada, particularly in insolvencies and restructurings where lawsuits can be an asset class from which to maximize recovery for creditors. As the Supreme Court acknowledges, litigation can be akin to a “pot of gold” (at para. 111):

“When the ‘pot of gold’ is secure — that is, in the event of any litigation or settlement — the net funds will be distributed to the creditors. Here, if the [claims] generate funds in excess of Bluberi’s total liabilities, the creditors will be paid in full; if there is a shortfall, a plan of arrangement or compromise will determine how the funds are distributed.

JB & M Walker Ltd. v. TDL Group (Ontario Superior Court, February 2019)

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice (EM Morgan J.) was asked to approve a funding agreement to allow Tim Hortons franchisees to continue their litigation against their franchisor for alleged misappropriation of advertising funds. An alliance of franchisees had provided financial support to the Plaintiffs but they were no longer able to continue this financial support.

The Plaintiffs therefore entered into a funding arrangement whereby the litigation funder paid all fees and disbursements on a pay-as-you-go, non-recourse basis. Counsel would also receive a small top-up of 2% to 3%, to be determined at the end of the action. The funder was to receive between 22% and 26% of the litigation proceeds. This was the first decision in Canada where a Court was asked to approve a funding arrangement whereby the funder paid all of class counsel’s fees, in addition to paying disbursements and providing an adverse costs indemnity.

The Court recognized that third-party funding would "ensure that the Plaintiffs and the putative class of franchisees are able to achieve access to justice" and deter wrongdoing (para. 12). Relying on Houle v. St. Jude Medical Inc., 2017 ONSC 5129, aff’d 2018 ONSC 6352 (Div. Ct.), the Court held that the funding agreement "protect[ed] the financial and human capital of class counsel while seeing to it that the Plaintiffs and class have adequately resourced legal representation" (para. 13). The Court was reassured by the fact that the agreement could only be terminated with court approval, and that the Plaintiffs received independent legal advice regarding the agreement and budget from experienced class action lawyers (para. 4). Because the combined amounts to which the third-party funder and Plaintiffs’ counsel would be entitled came to a maximum of 29%, which is within the range of "presumptive validity" for contingency fees recognized in previous cases, the Court was comfortable approving the agreement at the outset, subject to being able to control the fairness of the ultimate recovery when a settlement is approved or a final award is rendered. The Court was convinced by class counsel’s submission that using a third-party funder would result in a greater recovery to the class than if class counsel had entered into a typical 33%-plus contingency fee arrangement (para. 26). Given the structure of the funding agreement, the Court also mentioned that it was not comparable with the Class Proceedings Fund arrangement and its 10% return (para. 24).

Ultimately, the Court approved a settlement agreement pursuant to which class members recovered overall value of $37,396,000 (through cash and non-monetary items). Turning to the approval of the funder’s and class counsel’s returns, the Court noted that the funder had incurred over $1 million in charges since signing the LFA, had undertaken “a substantial risk in assuming liability for any adverse costs awards”, and had been “instrumental in the class achieving the settlement” (para. 17). The Court noted that the return sought by the funder and class counsel was less than what they were entitled to seek: the funder sought approval of a payment in the amount of $3,622,641.51, or 24% of the $12,000,000 cash payment, and class counsel sought approval of a payment in the amount of $377,358.49, or 2.5% of the $12,000,000 cash payment, plus a marginal 2.9% and 0.3%, respectively, on the $25,396,000 non-monetary settlement. This worked out to a combined return of 33% of the $12,000,000 cash component alone.   

9354-9186 Québec Inc. (Bluberi Gaming Technologies) v. Callidus Capital Corp. (Quebec Court of Appeal, February 2019)

An appeal of the CCAA Court's decision in Re Bluberi Gaming Technologies [see summary below] was granted by the Quebec Court of Appeal in February 2019. However, the court agreed to stay (suspend) the effect of its ruling pending an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously overturned the Quebec Court of Appeal’s decision [see summary above].

David v. Loblaw (Ontario Superior Court, October 2018)

In this proposed class action, the plaintiffs allege that the defendant manufacturers and retailers of packaged bread engaged in unlawful price-fixing over a 15 year period.   Class counsel are acting on a contingency fee basis, but the disbursements for litigating the complex claim are expected to be in the millions of dollars.  In addition, there is a significant adverse costs exposure if the action, or any motions within it, are unsuccessful.  Following a competitive process, the plaintiffs entered into a Litigation Funding Agreement (LFA) with Bentham.

The key features of the LFA are that Bentham will (a) pay disbursements incurred by class counsel up to a prescribed maximum, after which class counsel will fund the disbursements; (b) pay any court ordered costs on behalf of the Plaintiffs up to a prescribed maximum, after which class counsel will be responsible for court ordered costs; (c) provide security for costs of one or more Defendant if required by the court to do so, which security will take the form of an Undertaking.  In return, Bentham will be reimbursed for all payments advanced and will receive a return of 10% out of the litigation proceeds after deduction of disbursements, lawyers’ fees and taxes, and administrative expenses. Bentham’s 10% return is capped under the Agreement.

Following a motion on notice to the defendants, Justice Morgan approved the LFA.  In doing so, he noted that:

  1. Bentham is a substantial financial entity whose financial statement are a matter of record.  It is “amply capitalized, and also has insurance as a backstop to its obligations under the Agreement” (para. 15).  Moreover, as a reporting issuer, any changes to its financial position are a matter of public record (para. 8).
  2. Bentham’s return would be on par with the Class Proceedings Fund (“CPF”), but is also capped at a fixed amount, unlike the CPF (para. 13).
  3. The LFA contains features “which add layers of fairness to the class: the claimants have sole right to direct proceedings and instruct counsel, termination of the Agreement is only with leave of the court (and if before certification the consent of class counsel is also required), Bentham will pay the costs up to the termination date (including costs of a motion to approve termination), and any assignment must be on notice to all parties and requires approval of court” (para. 14).  In addition, the representative plaintiffs received independent legal advice from a class actions lawyer prior to entering into the Agreement.
  4. Bentham agrees to satisfy any security for costs in the form of an Undertaking made to the Defendants.  The question of whether to accept an Undertaking as security is a discretionary one, and in accepting it here, Justice Morgan noted:
    1. a.  Although the Undertaking is given by IMF Bentham Ltd (the parent company to the Canadian entity), a parent Undertaking was acceptable:  “Bentham Australia has attorned to this court’s jurisdiction and has waived any jurisdictional defences. In any case, Australia is a jurisdiction with a legal system as similar as any to that of Ontario, and there should be no problem seeking enforcement of an Ontario court order in the Australian courts” (para. 18).

      b.  Although the monetary cap on Bentham’s funding, including the total adverse costs commitment, was redacted, it was not necessary for the defendants to have access to that figure.  An unredacted copy was provided to the Court, and Justice Morgan was “satisfied that Bentham’s obligation to fund the litigation is sufficient to cover any likely costs award” (para. 19). 

      c.  While there was no motion for security for costs presently before the Court, there was “no reason to withhold approval of the Agreement on the basis that it proposes a form of security that is in any case within the scope of discretion of a judge hearing such a motion” (para. 22).

The Agreement was therefore approved.

Marcil v. Commission scolaire De La Jonquière et al (Quebec Superior Court, July 2018)

In July 2013, a proposed class action was filed against a number of Quebec school boards alleging that the certain fees charged violated the guarantee of free educational services provided in Quebec’s Education Act.  In a judgment dated December 6, 2016 (confirmed on appeal in April 2017), the Quebec Superior Court authorized the class action.

In June 2018, a settlement agreement was reached and submitted for approval to the Superior Court.

In a judgment dated July 30, 2018, Justice Carl Lachance of the Superior Court approved the settlement agreement and the proposed terms of the compensation sought by class counsel. Those terms included a request to be reimbursed for the costs of litigation funding.

Justice Lachance held that the funding had been necessary for the class action to proceed. Following a precedent set by Justice Claudine Roy (as she then was) in Marcotte v. Banque de Montréal, 2015 QCCS 1915, Justice Lachance agreed that the financing costs should be reimbursed out of the sums to be collectively recovered, in addition to class counsel fees. 

Marriott v. General Motors of Canada Company (Ontario Superior Court, April 2018)

The underlying litigation is a class action for alleged violations of Canadian automobile emission standards.

This specific decision was in regards to plaintiff’s motion to approve a litigation funding agreement. Under the agreement, the funder is to pay certain disbursements and any adverse costs orders in exchange for 7% of the litigation proceeds (capped at $15 million, or $10 million if the action is resolved prior to the plaintiff filing a pre-trial conference brief).

The Court applied the test for third party litigation funding approvals summarized in Kinross, and granted the plaintiff’s motion.

9354-9186 Québec Inc. (Bluberi Gaming Technologies) v. Callidus Capital Corp. (Quebec Superior Court, March 2018)

Bluberi had been under Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (“CCAA”) protection since 2015. As part of its restructuring efforts, it intended to assert a claim against its former lender, alleging that it caused Bluberi’s demise (paras. 60-62). Bluberi lacked the funds to advance that claim and sought funding. Bluberi and Bentham, along with Bluberi’s counsel, entered into a litigation funding agreement (LFA) in January 2018 whereby Bentham agreed, subject to CCAA Court approval, to pay Bluberi’s legal fees and disbursements, in exchange for a portion of any proceeds of the litigation. If the litigation is unsuccessful, Bentham loses its investment and pays any costs orders.

The court-appointed monitor supported the funding arrangement (paras. 63-65), and Bluberi moved for the CCAA Court’s approval of the LFA. The lender brought a cross-motion for permission to call a creditors’ meeting to approve its own plan of arrangement, through which the lender would be released from any liability to Bluberi.

In his decision, Justice Michaud first dismissed the lender’s cross-motion, finding that it constituted an attempt to use the CCAA proceedings for an "improper purpose" and that it would result in a "substantial injustice" to Bluberi (paras. 38-40, 56). He then granted Bluberi’s motion for approval of the LFA. In addition to holding that Bluberi did not need creditor approval to bring its lawsuit and that Bluberi’s CCAA stay of proceedings should be extended (paras. 66-72, 87-91), Justice Michaud held that (paras. 73-86):

  1. The LFA provides funding that is necessary to allow Bluberi to gain access to justice, as its lawsuit represents the "only avenue that can potentially allow for any meaningful recovery for the creditors" (para. 69);
  2. The LFA does not diminish Bluberi’s ability to control its litigation and instruct its counsel;
  3. The LFA does not compromise or impair Bluberi’s lawyer-client relationship or its lawyers’ duties of loyalty and confidentiality;
  4. The LFA provides Bentham, whom the court-appointed monitor calls "a reputable lender with a proven track-record" (para. 64), with compensation that is fair and reasonable;
  5. The LFA protects confidential information;
  6. The LFA provides Bentham with reasonable contractual termination rights; and
  7. The LFA is protected from disclosure to the defendant, who is not entitled to know "how much money Bentham is investing, what its percentage of return is, or how any recovery would be apportioned" (para. 85). 

Seedlings Life Science Ventures v. Pfizer Canada “Seedlings II” (Federal Court, September 2017)

In this case, Seedlings brought an action to enforce a patent against an Pfizer, international pharmaceutical company.  Seedlings entered into an Litigation Funding Agreement (LFA) with Bentham.  Under the LFA, Bentham agrees to pay a portion of Seedlings’ legal fees and disbursements on a non-recourse basis.  If the case is unsuccessful, Seedlings loses nothing, and Bentham will pay any court-ordered costs.  If the case is successful, Seedlings, its counsel and Bentham will each receive a return.  Seedlings and Bentham brought a motion, on notice to the defendant, for approval of their LFA by the Federal Court.
The Approval Motion was dismissed, without costs, on the basis that the Federal Court did not have jurisdiction to grant such a remedy or make such a determination [7].  Case Management Judge Tabib reasoned that, unlike in class actions where courts must help protect vulnerable class members, “the legal, procedural and policy imperatives … of submitting LFAs to prior court approval … do not exist in the context of private litigation. There is no legal or logical basis to extend the requirement of pre-approval outside of class proceedings” [16].
The Court noted that “the manner in which Seedlings chooses to fund a litigation it has every right to bring is of no concern to the Court or to the Defendant. … The Defendant has no legitimate interest in enquiring into the reasonability, legality or validity of Seedlings’ [funding] arrangements … because they do not affect or determine the validity of the rights asserted by Seedlings in this action” [22-23].  Indeed, by opposing the LFA as “aggressively” as it did, “Pfizer’s conduct was not at all helpful to the determination of the issues before the Court … [and its] conduct should not be recompensed with an award of costs” [35].
The Court further found that the LFA need not be approved in order for Bentham to be bound by the implied undertaking rule. That is, a third-party funder is entitled to receive information from the discovery of a defendant, as any related third party would be (e.g. “experts, potential witnesses, consultants or others whose advice is relevant to the carriage of the litigation”), without special approval from the court. Such disclosure by a plaintiff to the funder is “neither improper nor alien, collateral or ulterior to the litigation”—as long as the funder agrees to abide by the implied undertaking rule [32-33].

Houle v. St Jude (Ontario, August 2017 and October 2018)

This case is the next stage in the evolution of Canadian jurisprudence relating to the third-party litigation funding in class actions. Previous cases considered litigation funding for disbursements and adverse costs orders alone. In Houle, the Ontario Superior Court provided guidance on a Litigation Funding Agreement where Bentham agreed to pay a portion of lawyers’ fees as the case progresses, in addition to agreed disbursements and any court-ordered costs.
Justice Perell commented that “the novelty of the hybrid retainer that combines a partial contingency fee with a fee-for-services retainer strikes me as a positive factor . . .  This approach which partially protects the financial and human capital of class counsel may expand the roster of firms prepared to assume the risks of class action litigation” [para. 79].
He then set out a six-part test for assessing an LFA: (a) can a court scrutinize the LFA [para. 73]; (b) is third-party funding necessary in the case [75]; (c) will the funder make a meaningful contribution to access to justice or behaviour modification [78]; (d) will the funder be overcompensated for its risks in the case [80]; (e) is the lawyer-client relationship protected from interference [88]; and (f) is the LFA not illegal under some other grounds, independent of champerty and maintenance [100].
The Court concluded that the LFA met all criteria except for (d) and (e).
In regards to (d), overcompensation, Justice Perell concluded that the appropriate level of compensation for Bentham can be determined only at the end of the litigation [87]. In other words, Bentham cannot know if it is entitled to its full contractual rate of return for its investment in the litigation until after the case is over. The Court was willing to pre-approve only a 10% return, by analogy to the Class Proceedings Fund’s rate of return,  with any further return to the funder to be assessed at the conclusion of the case.

In regards to (e), interference, Justice Perell expressed concern that Bentham’s termination rights under the LFA might interfere with the plaintiffs’ litigation autonomy [89]. Specifically, the Court held that Bentham should have no right to terminate the LFA if the case is no longer meritorious, and should be able to terminate the LFA in other specific circumstances only upon court approval [98].
The Divisional Court granted leave to appeal, and in October 2018, upheld the motion Judge’s decision.

Seedlings Life Science Ventures v. Pfizer Canada “Seedlings I” (Federal Court, July 2017)

This was a preliminary motion on the same facts as the Seedlings case noted above. In advance of the LFA approval motion, the defendant, Pfizer, was provided with a redacted version of the LFA (the Court had an unredacted version).  Pfizer filed a motion for an unredacted copy.
Case Management Judge Tabib dismissed Pfizer’s motion, with costs. The Court found that litigation privilege attaches to the LFA, as it “was prepared and created for the sole purpose of the present litigation” [p. 2]. It was proper for portions relating to details of Bentham’s funding commitment and timing variables to be withheld from the defendant. Otherwise, Pfizer would get “a tactical advantage in how the litigation would be prosecuted or settled, and the very essence of what the litigation privilege is designed to protect” [p. 4].

Schneider v. Royal Crown Gold Reserve Inc. (Saskatchewan, 2016)

The representative plaintiff in a class action sought approval of a third-party funding agreement on an ex parte basis. Chief Justice Popescul first noted that because in May 2015, Saskatchewan changed from a "no costs regime", to a "costs regime" for class actions, third-party funding agreements "are often a necessity" to enable class actions to advance (para. 5).
As there were no Saskatchewan precedents on point, Justice Popescul reviewed the law from other provinces. He found that it was appropriate to proceed on an ex parte basis, as "the existence of the LFA has no bearing, substantively or procedurally on the defendants or the third parties. From whose pocket an adverse cost award is paid is of no consequence to the defendants and the third parties" (para. 11).
Justice Popescul reviewed the criteria set out in Hayes v Saint John, and held that the agreement satisfied those conditions. He therefore approved the funding agreement.  In addition, Justice Popescul ordered that the defendants be notified that an agreement had been approved, but held that the agreement would be subject to a confidentiality order.

He explained:  

"The LFA, and the terms contained therein, if not subject to a Confidentiality Order would result in the disclosure of confidential and sensitive information that relate to the legal services and advice given by counsel and form a part of the plaintiff’s litigation strategy. The LFA contains insight into the strategic consideration inherent in the representative plaintiff’s strategy in these proceedings. It contains precise limits of disbursement funding and adverse cost award protection offered by the funder, the funder’s implied valuation of the claim for the purposes of setting the funding rate, and the termination provisions governing the availability of funding. Knowledge of this information on the part of the defendants or third parties would allow them to gain an unfair glimpse into the litigation psyche of the plaintiff, which is neither desirable nor fair." (para. 10).

Hayes v. The City of Saint John et al (New Brunswick, 2016)

The plaintiff sought approval of a litigation funding agreement for a class action. The motion was initially filed on an ex parte basis, but the Court ordered that it proceed with notice to the defendants. The plaintiff was not required, however, to give the defendants copies of the LFA, as the Court held it should be sealed. The defendants thus made submission about the principles to be applied when deciding whether to approve an LFA, but did not apply those principles to the LFA at issue.

Justice Grant relied upon the criteria outlined in the Ontario jurisprudence, particularlyBayens and Dugal, and found that those criteria were satisfied here. He therefore approved the LFA.

The defendants also requested that the funder post security for costs with the Court. Justice Grant held that in light of his conclusion that the LFA meets all of the requirements and is not an example of the torts of champerty or maintenance, there was no principled reason to require that the third party funder provide security for costs outside the usual process for such an order. He therefore denied the request. 

Berg v. Canadian Hockey League (Ontario, 2016)

A proposed representative plaintiff brought motion without notice for approval of a litigation funding agreement between the class, proposed class counsel and third-party litigation funder.  The moving parties also sought an order sealing the court file. 

Justice Perell first confirmed that third-party funding agreements are no longer prohibited.  However, if they are unfair to the client, interfere with a lawyer’s professional responsibilities to the client or the court, or potentially could interfere with the administration of justice, then such an agreement would be illegal (para. 5). 

Justice Perell noted that the funding agreement in this case was "extraordinarily complicated", and he was concerned that the representative plaintiff needed independent legal advice about agreement, and also about the interrelationship of the contingency fee agreement with counsel and the third party funding agreement with the funder. Neither the Court nor class counsel could be relied upon to provide that advice (para. 15-18).   

The defendants' view on the agreement would also not be sufficient, as "defendants cannot and should not be relied on to ferret out the problems with a third party funding agreement, because once their own interests are protected, such as ensuring that they have access to the funds for a costs awards favourable to them, they might be content with the knowledge that the plaintiff was not judgment proof for costs, and thus defendants might rather like the existence of a third party funding agreement" (para. 19). 

Justice Perell therefore determined that the circumstances required a sequential approach. The representative plaintiff must first retain, at the expense of class counsel, a lawyer to provide independent legal advice about the legality of the proposed third party funding agreement, as well as a recommendation as to whether or not the representative plaintiff should agree to the funding agreement. The written opinion must then be provided to the Court.  

The motion for approval of the agreement was adjourned until that opinion was obtained, and provided to the Court. Justice Perell confirmed that there was no basis to involve the defendants at the outset, and but they may be involved depending on how the request for court approval progressed. That is, if it was determined that the third party funding agreement should not be approved because it was illegal or unfair and not in the interests of the putative Class Members, then there would no need to have the agreements and the other sensitive material disclosed to the Defendants.  

To date, there has been no reported decision on the adjourned motion.  

Walter v. Canadian Hockey League (Alberta, 2016)

This is a class action against the Western Hockey League (WHL) and its umbrella organization, the Canadian Hockey League.  The plaintiffs claim that during the time they played in the WHL, they were employees of the clubs and were therefore entitled to receive minimum wage payments in accordance with minimum wage legislation in the respective Canadian and US jurisdictions. This is the parallel claim to the Berg v. Ontario Hockey League matter in Ontario.

The representative plaintiff brought an ex parte motion for approval of the contingency fee agreement with their counsel, and for approval of the “financing and indemnity agreement” between the representative plaintiff, class counsel and a funder. 

The Court approved the contingency fee agreement, subject to amendments directed by the court.  It also approved the agreement with the funder, and ordered that (1) documents exchanged between the plaintiff, class counsel and the funder are confidential; and (2) the plaintiff and class counsel can provide documents to the funder, including transcripts and productions from the action, on the condition that the funder and its staff are bound by the deemed or implied undertaking rule.

In 2017, this action was certified as a class action.   

Marcotte v. Banque de Montreal (Quebec, 2015)

This decision relates to the decade-long class action litigation against financial institutions, which culminated in a win for the plaintiffs at the Supreme Court of Canada (2014 SCC 55). The litigation was subsequently settled for $56 million. In the present decision, the Superior Court of Quebec was asked to approve the settlement as it concerned the payment of $13.5 million in lawyers’ fees and $7.3 million in litigation financing costs. The court approved both, holding (paras. 43-44; unofficial translation):

“In the face of legal costs, an industry has emerged, which is not yet widespread in Quebec, but which is gaining momentum in Canada and is more developed in Great Britain. A client who could not otherwise enforce his or her rights can obtain funding, in return for a commitment to provide a high financial return to the funder. In exchange, the latter agrees to risk its funds, and is paid only if the plaintiff wins his or her case. … [T]he financing of third party litigation is a path to justice.”

Schenk v. Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. (Ontario, 2015)

Single plaintiff of modest means wished to pursue contract claim against well-funded defendant. British funder to cover legal fees and disbursements in exchange for escalating return.

First time Court considered funding in a single-party commercial action: “I see no reason why such funding would be inappropriate in the field of commercial litigation” (para. 8).

Up to 50% return for the funder was acceptable: “In my view, it would be reasonable to allow a funder a recovery of approximately 50 percent in certain circumstances. This case would, to my mind, fit within that category, since it involves a plaintiff of modest means seeking to pursue significant litigation against corporate defendants involving complicated subject matter and very significant damages being claimed” (para. 17).

Court was concerned about open-ended nature of funder’s recovery, which allowed an additional 5% of the litigation proceeds for every 10% that counsel exceeded the litigation budget: “I cannot, however, countenance the terms of the LFA that provide for a significant recovery for Redress, with an open-ended exposure to Schenk that could result in Redress retaining the lion’s share of any proceeds” (para. 17).

Court concluded that this agreement constituted maintenance and champerty, but it was without prejudice to plaintiff’s ability to renegotiate the terms and return for approval. Funder and plaintiff revised the agreement, and it was subsequently approved.

Stanway v. Wyeth Canada Inc. (British Columbia, 2014)

In a 2013 decision in the same matter (2013 BSCS 1585), the Court considered whether LFAs can be approved in the class action context, and concluded:

  • LFAs may be approved in B.C., but the Court must hear the defendants’ submissions on it, even in no-costs regime.
  • “I must consider whether the funding agreement appropriately manages the risks to the plaintiff’s control of the litigation, the independent professional judgment of counsel and disclosure of sensitive information” (para. 42).
  • The LFA is subject to privilege in respect of specific aspects: litigation strategy, litigation budget and other “highly sensitive” aspects (para. 43).

In this 2014 decision, the Court considered a specific agreement for approval. It cited extensively from Bayens and Kinross from Ontario, and found that under the Ontario jurisprudence, “the LFA must be fair and reasonable and provide the representative plaintiffs with access to judgment, without compromising the principles of independence of counsel, confidentiality agreements between the parties be observed and, not to the disadvantage of the representative plaintiffs” (para. 17).

Court found that the LFA, which guaranteed the funder a minimum of 150% return on its investment and has no cap on potential recovery, was reasonable and fair. The funder may receive a “windfall”, but there “is every probability of a protracted litigation and the result is speculative” (para. 18).

Court did not find the counsel’s independence was compromised by the funder’s right to terminate if the representative plaintiff changes counsel or altered the strategic course of litigation, or by the funder’s right to provide strategic advice (para. 19).

The Court rejected the argument that the representative plaintiff should be required to obtain independent legal advice; since Court approval is being obtained, such legal advice adds little benefit (para. 20).

Rooney v. ArcelorMittal S.A. (Ontario, 2013; 2018)

Litigation funding for this class action was offered in exchange for a rate of return that was more favourable to the plaintiffs than the rate applicable to the Class Proceedings Fund. The defendants did not oppose the arrangement. In 2013, the Court approved the funding agreement, based mainly on precedent examples in decisions rendered by Justices Strathy and Perell. The Court ordered the foreign funder to pay security for costs, by means of an irrevocable letter of credit or otherwise.

The defendants were not satisfied with the letter of credit, principally because it was subject to annual renewals and contained an ultimate expiry date. In 2018, they requested the action be stayed until other security was posted. The Court dismissed the defendants’ motion, holding that the letter of credit was sufficient, because the Court would receive advance notice of any non-renewal or expiry and it would immediately call the letter of credit at that time.