Zexi Li et al v Chris Barber et al

In February 2022, two Ottawa residents, a coffee shop, and a union commenced a $290-million class action lawsuit against various defendants, including the Freedom Convoy protestors, for allegedly causing a nuisance through honking or idling of vehicle engines during the protest that took place in Ottawa last winter.

The class plaintiffs seek damages against people they allege organized the Freedom Convoy, truckers who parked their trucks in Ottawa and honked their horns, and donors who supported the Freedom Convoy.
On December 20, 2022, counsel provided by the Justice Centre, James Manson, filed a motion to strike all or part of the ongoing class action proceedings against “Freedom Convoy”.

In his factum , Mr. Manson argues that the class action has been improperly pleaded by “lumping together” all protestors who were in Ottawa in January-February of 2022 and treating them as a single unit. It also argues that the plaintiffs have not named a specific defendant that was alleged to cause harm to a specific plaintiff, nor have they named defendants that have a reasonable chance of success at trial.

The motion put forward by Mr. Manson argues that it is improper for the plaintiffs to point to a general group of people and say they should be held responsible, without specifying who-did-what that caused the alleged harm, and when.

The plaintiffs have also named as defendants all those who donated money to the Freedom Convoy after February 4, 2022, arguing that all those donors “knew or ought to have known” by that time that their donations would be used to commit the alleged harm to the plaintiffs. Counsel provided by the Justice Centre, James Manson, argues that the so-called “donor class” of defendants also cannot be “lumped together”; rather, to determine every donor’s intention, the court would have to examine evidence with respect to every individual donor’s particular circumstances. The plaintiffs would have to prove that the intent of each donor was for the truckers to cause the alleged nuisance. This would be impossible to determine.

“It is critical in every lawsuit for a plaintiff to properly plead his or her claim, so that defendants, and the court, understand the allegations and the issues raised,” said Manson on January 24, 2023. “Our view is that this lawsuit, as currently pleaded, fails to achieve that important goal. Accordingly, the court should exercise its supervisory powers and strike out the claim as currently drafted. We are confident that our arguments today will give the judge a lot to think about.”

This case is ongoing as of Feb 16, 2023 and a decision on the motion to strike and the plaintiffs’ motion to amend is expected in the coming weeks.