Contingency fees now a class actions reality in Australia

The Justice Legislation Miscellaneous Amendments Bill 2019 (Vic) has now successfully passed through both houses of the Victorian State Parliament after a protracted process that included delays in debating the Bill due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Act includes (in cl 5) a proposed new s 33ZDA to be inserted into Supreme Court Act 1986 (Vic) permitting contingency fees in class actions in the Supreme Court. The scheme proposes:

  • The plaintiff may apply for a ‘group costs order’ which specifies the contingency fee percentage to be paid to the plaintiff’s lawyers upon success (sub-s (1));
  • if such an order is made, the plaintiff’s lawyers are liable to pay any adverse costs orders in the proceeding in favour of the defendant(s), and must provide any security for costs in the proceeding (sub-s (2)); and
  • the Court may, at any stage of the proceeding, vary a ‘group costs order’ (including the contingency fee percentage) (sub-s (3)).

The Act is a huge step forward in increasing access to justice for clients that suffer from the mass scale wrongdoing of powerful organisations and will be the single biggest transformation in helping drive down the cost of participating in class actions. Importantly, it will lead to far greater returns to participants upon successful resolution of matters.

Despite being opposed by conservative politicians and their corporate lobbyists including a concerted campaign run by the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform, the passage of the Bill is a victory for common sense and evidence-based policy, with the Australian Productivity Commission, the Victorian Law Reform Commission and the Australian Law Reform Commission all in recent years independently reaching conclusions that the reform was a positive one for the class action system.

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Andrew Watson

National Head of Class Actions, Class actions, Melbourne

"I'm an experienced litigator in class actions, particularly for shareholders who have been victims of corporate misconduct."

Ben Slade

State Managing Principal, Office Leader, Class actions, Sydney

"I am driven to give a voice to those who would otherwise have to suffer because those who have done them wrong are all too powerful."

Kimi Nishimura

Principal Lawyer, Class actions, Melbourne

"I'm committed to fighting for the rights of victims of corporate misconduct as well as pursuing compensation on behalf of my clients."

Rebecca Gilsenan

Executive Director, Principal Lawyer, Class actions, Sydney

"I have extensive experience in running complex and novel litigation, including class actions in the areas of price fixing, failed investment schemes, product liability and securities."

Miranda Nagy

Principal Lawyer, Class actions, Sydney

"I have a strong conviction that the community should be able to expect our governments and the companies we deal with to comply with the law."

Julian Schimmel

Principal Lawyer, Class actions, Sydney

"Class actions are a unique legal mechanism that have helped hundreds of thousands of people receive compensation after mistreatment at the hands of powerful companies, and it’s gratifying to help people get access to justice when otherwise it would’ve been difficult for them."

Vavaa Mawuli

Principal, Class actions, Brisbane

"The most rewarding thing about my work is the change in scale of what we are able to accomplish."

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