A class-action claim at the click of a mouse



    Unique money-recovery process for some 80,000 former Quebec student loan
    borrowers

    MONTREAL, June 2 /CNW Telbec/ - Winning a $30 million class-action suit
against the Minister of Education took the Montreal boutique law firm
Sternthal Katznelson Montigny almost 10 years and a trip to the Supreme Court
of Canada. But the money-recovery process is going to be as easy as the click
of a mouse for the 80,000 former Quebec CEGEP and university students who are
potential claimants.
    Starting today, claimants will be able to go onto the Minister's website
(www.afe.gouv.qc.ca) to file their claim. No documents or paperwork will be
required when filing - the amount of money the claimant is owed will be
calculated automatically and, if the claimant accepts, the cheque will be in
the mailbox in less than a week.
    "To my knowledge, this is the first time in Quebec that a class-action
recovery process for that large a body of claimants is being done strictly
online," said Guy St-Germain, a partner with Sternthal Katznelson Montigny
(SKM) which successfully litigated the class action. "This is as streamlined a
process as any I have seen."
    The class-action recovery follows a favorable ruling by the Supreme Court
of Canada in a case involving the Minister of Education's illegal charging of
interest on loans contracted by CEGEP and university students prior to
April 30, 1998. Mr. St-Germain says that the average payment to a qualifying
claimant will be approximately $375, although it will vary depending on the
amount of the loan and the resulting interest overcharge.
    Harry Dikranian, a McGill law graduate affected by the illegal charge,
initiated the class action in 1999. The SKM legal team, which included
Mr. St-Germain and SKM litigation partner Leon Greenberg, argued the case. It
was a bit of a departure for the boutique law firm that normally specializes
in corporate, commercial law and litigation for small and medium size
businesses.
    Under the terms of the recovery, the Minister today began mailing out
personal notices explaining the claim process to every class-action member
using government database resources to determine the last-known address of
each potential claimant. There will also be newspaper notices published on
June 7.
    "Historically, when a claims process is too complicated, people tend to
give up and not be bothered," said Mr. St-Germain. "In this particular
instance, all the claimant has to do is register on the Minister's website and
confirm his or her claim."
    Since the class action judgment was handed down two years ago, the SKM
legal team has been as relentless in its pursuit of a streamlined recovery
process as it was in winning the class action.
    Mr. St-Germain explained that a third party administrator or the court
normally manages the class-action recovery process. Although SKM's lawyers had
proposed a third party administrator - given that the Court would have had
difficulty dealing with such a large number of claimants - the Minister
subsequently sought the right to handle the claims process itself, which the
Court allowed.
    "Winning the class action was satisfying from a legal point of view",
remarked Mr. St-Germain. "However, our real goal is to get full recovery of
the money for the former students. A complicated recovery procedure is often
the downfall of a class action."
    Is Mr. St-Germain prepared to venture a guess as to how many eligible
claimants will avail themselves of this streamlined recovery process?
    "Obviously, we are aiming for 100%," he replied. "Even though the
addresses have been updated, we have no clue how effective the
government-administered recovery process will prove to be or how difficult it
will be to reach everyone, especially those who have moved outside Quebec.
We're hoping people who know about it - such as family or friends of potential
claimants or perhaps former classmates - will pass the word on to them."
    In addition to the government website at www.afe.gouv.qc.ca and SKM's
website at www.skm.ca, there is also a Facebook group created to keep members
informed. The government also has a toll free telephone line at
(866) 584-3979.
    Sternthal Katznelson Montigny can also be reached toll-free at
(877) 878-9040 or by emailing classaction@skm.ca.

    About Sternthal Katznelson Montigny

    Founded in 1976, Sternthal Katznelson Montigny is a 10-member firm
composed of partners and associates with a wide range of expertise in
corporate, commercial and civil matters. The firm's lawyers have extensive
litigation experience before all branches of the Quebec judicial system, the
Federal Court of Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada.




For further information:

For further information: Johanne Lépine, Torchia Communications, (514)
288-8290, extension 234, jlepine@torchiacom.com; Julie Tremblay, Torchia
Communications, (514) 288-8290, extension 214, julie@torchiacom.com

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