Federal Court stamps authority on the purpose of pleadings

When filing a class action, it is important to get your pleadings right. This Federal Court interaction concerns the Court's view regarding the purpose of a statement of claim in class action proceedings.

This is a class action arising from vaccines manufactured by the respondent and given to horses in relation to the Hendra virus. In this judgment, Lee J rejected the applicant’s application for leave to file an amended statement of claim, and in doing so made some brief general comments about the function of a statement of claim in a class action (at [1]-[4]):

… A statement of claim in a Part IVA proceeding such as this has two broad purposes.

The first is that it must demonstrate that each of the threshold requirements referred to in s 33C of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 (Cth) are satisfied. These threshold requirements, the preconditions for commencing a representative proceeding, exist anterior to and separately from the proceeding itself. Most importantly, this includes the notion that there is a claim of both the applicant and group members which has certain characteristics.

The second purpose is that the statement of claim must, in accordance with the usual rules of pleading, articulate a claim on behalf of a representative applicant in such a way as to provide procedural fairness to a respondent as to the case that the respondent is required to meet at any initial trial.

There was some debate concerning the content of the obligation in order to fulfil the requirements of the first purpose, but it is now well established that the claims of the group members need to be pleaded in a way which is sufficient to demonstrate satisfaction of the threshold requirements, but at a level of generality which reflects the fact that the group member claims are, in the usual course, not to be determined at any initial trial.

Ultimately, his Honour considered that the proposed pleading propounded by the applicant failed to draw the necessary link between the alleged contravening conduct, and the loss claimed to have been suffered. His Honour did, however, give leave to the applicant to propound a further version of its proposed pleading.

Case details

Abbott v Zoetis Australia Pty Ltd FCA 2057

  • Federal Court of Australia, Lee J
  • Applicant's Solicitors: LHD Lawyers 
  • Respondent’s Solicitors: Piper Alderman
  • Applicant's Funder: N/A

Read more on Austlii: Abbott v Zoetis Australia Pty Ltd FCA 2057

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