A lawyer leading the $300M class action lawsuit against the city of Thunder Bay says it's not double-dipping for his clients to also apply for disaster relief money from the city.

On the weekend, people who suffered losses from the May 28 flooding began filing claims for compensation.


Thunder Bay lawyer Alexander Zaitzeff says even if flood victims are part of a class-action lawsuit against the city, they should still apply for immediate disaster relief funding. (Matt Prokopchuk/CBC)

Lawyer Alexander Zaitzeff said the plaintiffs in the suit he is working on have a right to immediate compensation, adding there's a standard procedure to ensure people don't double-dip.

"[We track] all the funds that they receive … Whatever they receive is accounted for and deducted from any potential settlement on their behalf, or court award," he said.

The city’s Disaster Relief Committee is screening the applications for immediate relief. City clerk John Hannam cautioned that people who are a "party to a class-action lawsuit … should be consulting legal advice," but that "anyone who was affected by the disaster, and doesn't have insurance, or has limited insurance, is eligible to apply to the disaster relief committee program."

Hannam added the city is not forcing people to sign a release that prevents them from pursuing the lawsuit.

Lawsuit will take time

Thunder Bay residents hoping to benefit from a class-action suit against the city for flood damage will have to wait awhile.

A joint claim must be approved by a court before it can proceed as a class action.

Kirk Baert, vice-chair of Class Actions with the Ontario Bar Association, said the complaints must be traced to a similar cause to qualify.

"The questions in the lawsuit — in order to have a class action — you want them to be centred on the defendant's conduct, as opposed to centred on the individual characteristics of the home owners," Baert said.

The suit will only go to court if the request for class status is granted.

But Baert said 98 per cent of all lawsuits are settled before even reaching this stage.