What is a class action?
A class action is a court proceeding issued against an individual or entity by a wronged set or class of persons. Class actions seek compensation for wrongdoing on behalf of the participants.
The persons taking part must have a common cause of action – for example, mesothelioma can affect a set of former and current employees of the same industry even if they have worked in different places. These employees might be candidates for a class action if they are able to prove that they all did the same kind of work or were exposed to the same kinds of deadly chemicals during their employment. This type of class action is governed by personal injury law.
A class action must have a minimum of seven members affected or wronged by the defendant. One member or a few members of the class could be the named as plaintiffs representing the entire class of affected plaintiffs, while the others would become ‘group members’ of the claiming party.
In Australia the law provides an option to ‘opt out’ of or ‘opt in’ to a class action. If a person is subject to the same facts but opts out of the class action, they will not be eligible to share in any compensation which is recovered in the action.
Types of claims
Class actions impact all sectors and industries and can relate to many people within a community. Class actions can include:
· product liability actions.
· claims by investors and/or shareholders;
· consumer protection claims;
· industrial claims;
· mass tort claims;
· employment status and underpayment of wages;
· environmental liability (such as bushfires or floods);
· infrastructure and real estate, such as in relation to combustible cladding and building defects;
· cartel conduct; and
· data and privacy breaches.
The most common class actions during the last decade are claims involving share-holders. These types of claims can obtain litigation funding from third-party avenues. These types of claims can affect tens of thousands of people, if they relate to a consumer or product claim.
Some large class actions originate in the United States and expand to other common law jurisdictions. Australia has seen some of the most successful class action claims where a maximum compensation awarded was $494 million (including costs). That amount was recovered in December 2014 in a settlement against three defendants arising from the “Black Saturday” bushfires near Kilmore East-Kinglake in Victoria in 2009.
How can I commence a class action?
If you belong to a group or if you know any group of persons who have been wronged please contact our experienced litigation team on 9870 9870.