Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ who is leading the legal team representing downtown residents in a class-action lawsuit against self-proclaimed "Freedom Convoy" demonstrators joined The Rob Snow Show on Thursday, February 24 to discuss the latest developments.
Everybody who was involved in Ottawa’s convoy protest that has been named in Paul Champ’s $306 million lawsuit as defendants can all be put on the hook for the entire amount of the lawsuit.
And that amount could actually increase as Champ says it’s actually a low ball number based on assessments from an economist — so that number may actually increase over time.
That’s what Champ told The Rob Snow Show on Thursday, February 24, adding that now some residents have even sought medical attention not only for psychological treatment, but for hearing loss — some of which has turned out to be permanent.
Paul Champ lawsuit 101
Champ represents three groups of people in the joint and several liability lawsuit. The first is the residents of downtown Ottawa, which is represented by Zexi Li. The second are two businesses: Happy Goat Coffee Co. and Union Local 613. The final group are employees who work at businesses who were forced to shut down due to the protest, and lost out on wages.
“I think our numbers are probably low,” Champ said. “We based that on an initial assessment by an economist of the businesses losses per day of the business of downtown Ottawa of about $10 million and then an estimate of $3 million to $4 million in wage losses and then approximately $2 million to $3 million in pain and suffering for the people in downtown Ottawa. But on the pain and suffering, I think that’s probably going to go up.”
Some residents, he said, have been diagnosed with tinnitus — a permanent ringing in their ears, because of those “ear-splitting” air horns and train horns that were gong on in Ottawa for over three weeks.
Champ said his team knew of the health impacts early on when he and Zexi Li filed the injunction to get the truckers to stop honking their horns.
As of now, Champ says he has 400 licence plates collected, thanks to residents who took the initiative to collect them.
“I kind of called this case a grassroots class action off the top because we had dozens of very brave residents who were willing to help us at the onset and going downtown and videotaping trucks blowing their horns and then bringing their cameras over to capture their licence plates,” Champ explained.
In the last two weeks, Champ says he hired a private investigator to track down those licence plates, however, he’s also farming social media for photos posted from organizers and people who attended the occupation. He’s also capturing everything he can find and using it as a way to “connect the dots” of the planning, organizing and coordination process of the demonstrator’s plan.
“What people don’t get is the evidence we have now is that the whole plan of the organizers right from the beginning before they got to Ottawa was to encircle downtown and cause discomfort and inconvenience they brought on the people of downtown, so that the people of downtown would be so upset that they would apply pressure on the the government to capitulate to their demands,” he explained. “The evidence we have now is effectively that the people of downtown were held as hostages for these convoy occupiers.”
Because the lawsuit is classified as a joint and several liability lawsuit, it means every person who is named in the lawsuit can be held liable for the entire amount of money listed.
This means all truckers are at serious risk of financial consequences for themselves, their livelihoods and even their trucks, Champ explained.
And those who donated after February 4 are also on the hook. Champ says that date was chosen because from that time forward, it was apparent the convoy had other motives.
It was that day when GoFundMe also shutdown the convoy’s fundraising platform through its website because it said it had evidence money was going towards illegal behaviour, Champ said.
So anyone who donated to the GiveSendGo platform knew they were supporting something that wanted to bring harm to the people of Ottawa, Champ alleges.
“It’s an unfortunate situation because I think a lot of those individual truckers got hoodwinked or manipulated into coming and participated into this thing and not really knowing fully the consequences.”
Coming up next
Next week, Champ will continue his motion of a freezing order before the courts. This, he says, will freeze the bank accounts of organizers and donors to the occupation — including bitcoin and crypto currency exchanges.
He is now waiting on reports from banks and crypto exchanges, which he says probably holds around $3 million but are now frozen. He’ll be back in on Monday to continue that action.
Champ said he is open to talking to truckers who — upon further reflection — feel remorse for what they’ve done, and who have retained independent counsel and reach out.
As Champ said, he is open to settling with truckers earlier.
“Not that they can get out of it but I just advise them, find us before we find you.”