A lawyer for a pharmaceutical firm says holding a single trial in British Columbia to determine damages for each province and territory related to opioid health-care costs would be a "monster of complexity."

Gordon McKee, a lawyer for Janssen Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, told the B.C. Supreme Court that certifying Canadian governments as a class in their pursuit of damages against opioid makers isn't manageable or preferable compared with separate trials. 

McKee says the judge should not certify Canadian governments as a class in the case because it would "burden" B.C.'s justice system and have a negative affect on access to justice for other potential litigants. 

He says other courts in the past have recognized that some class-action lawsuits are "too big to certify," and there are enough separate issues in each province or territory that make a single trial unmanageable.

McKee says individual trials specific to each jurisdiction would be more suited and "appropriately spreads the burden" of the complex issues among provincial and territorial justice systems. 

A lawyer for the B.C. government asked the court this week to certify the class allowing provinces and territories to join their claims against the dozens of defendant companies, saying the actions are nearly identical claiming health care costs related to the opioid crisis that has killed or injured thousands of Canadians. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2023.