Bell Mobility on Tuesday failed a second time to get a Yellowknife man's $6-million class-action lawsuit thrown out of court, with the man's lawyer now focusing on the suit's central issue — Bell's fees for non-existent 911 service in the territory.
The lawsuit by James Anderson calls on Bell Mobility, the largest cellular service provider in the Northwest Territories, to repay customers the 75 cents it charges each month for the emergency service.
Anderson filed his class-action lawsuit in 2007 on behalf of all Bell Mobility customers, including those living in rural areas, who do not have 911 service in their areas but are being billed for it anyway.
Appearing before the N.W.T. Court of Appeal in Yellowknife on Tuesday, lawyers for Bell Mobility argued that it never agreed to provide 911 service.
The company said there was no mention of providing the emergency service in its contract with cellphone customers.
'You jolly well billed for it'
But that argument did not satisfy the three Court of Appeal judges, including Justice Jean Côté, who kept returning to the central theme of Anderson's lawsuit.
"You jolly well billed for it," Côté told Bell Mobility's lawyers in court at one point.
The judges dismissed the company's appeal without hearing a word from Anderson or his lawyer.
"I was very satisfied with the outcome today," Anderson said outside court Tuesday.
"To me, it's a very simple argument, but I understand that with the legalities [involved] that there are going be technical arguments that surface that have to be dealt with as well. But it all adds clarity, I think, to the case in the end."
In October, the N.W.T. Supreme Court rejected Bell Mobility's argument that Anderson's case did not meet the minimum legal requirements for a lawsuit.
Though the case began a year and a half ago, all of the arguments have been technical to date.
In the next stage of the case, a judge will have to determine if Anderson's lawsuit meets the criteria for a class-action lawsuit.
Handle issue 'sooner rather than later'
Keith Landy, Anderson's lawyer, said it is difficult to tell how long it will take for the lawsuit to be resolved.
"I can only hope that for those who are continuing to pay this monthly fee, that someone at Bell Mobility will recognize that maybe this is something they should be addressing sooner rather than later," Landy said outside court.
As an example, Landy pointed to the speedy settlement by Maple Leaf Foods that followed an outbreak of listeriosis caused by tainted meat last year.
"The owners of the Maple Leaf Foods were determined to see that justice was done, in their view, and wanted the matter resolved quickly," he said.
"So it really is up to the parties themselves to determine how quickly the matter can be resolved."