O’Neill v. General Motors of Canada
Post-Retirement Benefits Class Action
What this class action is about
A class action has been commenced against General Motors of Canada Limited (“GMCL”) on behalf of more than 3,300 salaried and executive retirees, whose post-retirement benefits were reduced and eliminated over 2008-2009. The lawsuit alleges the post-retirement benefits were vested and that GMCL had no contractual right to unilaterally reduce and eliminate them.
Justice Strathy appointed Joseph O’Neill, who worked for GM for almost 40 years, as the representative plaintiff in the class action. Sadly, Mr. O’Neill later passed away and Mr. Lynn McCullough was appointed as the new representative plaintiff.
August 10, 2014: The class action has been settled
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has approved the settlement of this class action.
The Notice of Settlement gives class members the details of the settlement and the process by which Class Members will be compensated.
The Court also approved legal fees.
July 4, 2014: The parties have reached a settlement
The parties have reached an agreement to settle the class action. The proposed settlement is subject to court approval. A public hearing will take place on August 7, 2014 at 10:00 a.m., 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, Courtroom 5, at which time the Court will consider whether the settlement is fair, reasonable and in the best interest of the class.
The attached notice describes the proposed settlement in detail, including who it applies to, the details of the settlement, the process by which Class Members will be compensated if the settlement is approved, and the manner in which Class Members can participate in the settlement approval process.
July 17, 2013 – Superior Court rules in the employees’ favour
The Superior Court of Justice has ruled in favour of the former salaried employees in the class action, finding that GM did not have the contractual authority to reduce their health care and life insurance benefits after they retired.
Unfortunately, the court also held that the language in the benefits documents allowed GM to reduce the benefits of executive employees post-retirement (a new class action was subsequently commenced for these employees).
Read the Superior Court’s decision finding in favour of the former salaried employees
GM has indicated that it will appeal the decision.
October 25, 2011 – Class action certified
Justice George Strathy has ordered that the class action be certified on consent. The class is defined as follows:
(a) all salaried and executive retirees of GMCL who retired from GMCL between January 1, 1995 and October 20, 2011, and
(b) all surviving spouses and dependent children beneficiaries of any deceased persons described in (a),**
(i) former employees of Canadian Automotive Manufacturing Inc. (“CAMI”) who became employees of GMCL as a result of the amalgamation of CAMI and GMCL effective January 1, 2011 and
(ii) retirees of divested units Electro-Motive Canada Co (“EMC”, formerly London Diesel); General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada Corporation (“GDLS”, formerly GM Defense); Peregrine Oshawa Inc. (and its successor Automotive Component Systems of Canada, Inc (“ACSYS”); or Peregrine Windsor Inc. (and its successor Lear Corporation Canada Ltd.) where post-retirement benefits are not provided by GMCL.
** For greater clarity, this means: in respect of people described in paragraph (a) who died prior to October 20, 2011, all surviving spouses of such deceased people, and where there is no surviving spouse or where the surviving spouse died prior to October 20, 2011, all dependent children of such deceased people described in paragraph (a), in all cases such surviving spouses and dependents being persons eligible under GMCL’s benefit plans without regard to the changes to eligibility requirements under GMCL’s benefit plans effective January 1, 2009.
Read the Superior Court’s decision certifying the class action
Steven Barrett, Christine Davies
Civil Litigation, Class Action Litigation, Pension & Benefits Law, Employment Law