Plaintiffs Get Relief In Problem Gambling Case
The $3.5-billion class action lawsuit filed against the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) by problem gamblers in Canada has once again come to the fore.
On August 3 this year, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted permission to appeal against the earlier judgement in the case of Dennis v. OLG. Jerome Morse, of Adair Morse LLP, plans to represent the more than 10,000 individuals who have been affected by the issue in the case.
The matter pertains to the period between December 1999 and February 2005, when over 10,000 people voluntarily signed self-exclusion forms, asking OLG to prevent them from entering its gambling establishments.
Problem Gambling Class Action Lawsuit
The original problem gambling class action lawsuit claimed that the plaintiffs, Peter Dennis, Zubin Noble and others, suffered losses because OLG failed to prevent them from gambling at its premises.
OLG rebutted that the self-exclusion policy was not a "policing program" and put the onus on the individual gamblers. It pointed out that the wording in the self-exclusion forms absolved the corporation of any liability if it failed to prevent excluded gamblers from entering its casinos.
The decision in the original lawsuit was given in 2010 by Ontario Superior Court Justice Maurice Cullity. The decision went against the plaintiffs, but not on the merits of the case.
Cullity said that there was no evidence to support that all class members were pathological problem gamblers. Therefore a class action suit was not applicable and each affected person would have to proceed individually. The justice also noted that nine claimants had reportedly settled for an average payment of $167,000.
Morse refers to several recent cases in which class action has been accepted on the basis of a group of individuals having a similar experience. An unpaid overtime case and a medical-device case were specifically mentioned by the lawyer, the latter having been served by Justice Cullity himself.
Morse Contends there is a Breach of Contract
The fundamental argument according to Morse is that there is a breach of contract. The exclusionary language in this particular contract is void because public policy demands that these people who are at risk of gambling are given due care.
Morse said, "The government can't say there's responsible gaming but when they get sued over a false self-exclusion program say 'read the fine print,'" Now, that the permission has been granted Morse will file the class action appeal.
Since 2005 the wording in the self-exclusion forms has been changed to include a clause that absolves OLG any responsibility if someone who signs a form continues gambling at a government-owned site.