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Class actions

Class action

Often, one individual lacks the resources to take on a large corporation. However, if enough individuals have experienced the same wrongdoing, collectively they can become a powerful force and strong voice for justice.

Our class actions

Class actions are a force for greater corporate social responsibility and accountability.

Are you part of a class action and want to learn more about it? Or are you thinking about starting or joining one? We're here to help guide you and answer all your questions. Learn more about our class actions and how you can be involved.

What's a class action?

A class action is a claim by seven or more people impacted by the same issue. If wrongdoing affects a lot of people, the claims can be brought together and resolved via a single case. Class actions provide a path to justice for individuals who don't have the resources to make a claim on their own, or in a situation where people affected are not aware that they have right to a claim. In addition to that, the value of the claim goes up by pursuing it as a group.

Class actions are an important part of the legal system. They streamline the legal process. The advantages of class actions are significant compared to the risks, costs and time involved in making individual claims.

Typical process for a class action


01

How it starts

If there is a group of people who experienced similar wrongdoing, class action lawyers determine whether pursuing a claim as a class action will be beneficial to the people involved whether the claim has merit. If it does, a representative is selected and the case is defined. A potential class action can be announced and other people who might be affected in the same way can be invited to register their interest to join.

02

Next steps

The claim is started in court and a judge is allocated to the case. An initial case management hearing is set, usually within a few weeks. During the initial hearing the court will address any issues concerning the case, make orders for any following steps and set an initial timetable. The next steps of the process differ per case and depending on the complexity, they can take months or even years.

03

Resolution

Most of our class actions reach settlement through mediation. If a settlement isn’t reached, a class action will go to trial where the outcome will be determined by the judgement of the court. Each individual client recovery is then carefully calculated by our specialist distribution team so that payments can be made to clients. 

Key terms:

Representative

In most cases, one person will act as the representative, or lead plaintiff, and bring the claim on behalf of the group. This representative is the only one exposed to the litigation cost and risk in this process. They have obligations to the members they represent including making sure the claim benefits the whole group and not just themselves. Their individual claim is used to resolve the issues they have in common with the group for everyone at once. 

The representative is the one who liaises with their lawyers about the way the claim is run and who negotiates and makes decisions regarding settlement.

Group members

You can be part of a class action as a group member if you meet the eligibility criteria specific to the case. The representative doesn't need permission from the group members in order to start a class action. However, there are mechanisms in place to protect group member's interests:

  • The court requires that all group members are notified about the class action and their rights such as the opportunity to opt-out.
  • The court manages class actions very closely, including regular hearings and conferences involving a judge.
  • A class action can't be settled without the court's permission. In cases where settlement isn't reached, the case will go to trial where the outcome is determined by judgment of the court.
  • The court can stop a class action if they find that the procedures aren't appropriate.

Opt-in or opt-out

Opt-in

We run our class actions on a no win, no fee basis and signing up will not expose you to any out of pocket costs, even if the legal proceedings are not successful. The law firm or litigation funder will bear the costs and the risks in running the case – not the participating group members.

It’s important to register for a class action as soon as you're aware that you're an eligible group member, so that the lawyers can keep you updated about the important milestones of the case.

Opt-out

While you can proactively register your interest to be involved in a class action, in Australia they're generally run on an opt-out basis. This means that anyone who meets the eligibility criteria is automatically part of he class action, regardless of whether they knew about the claim beforehand. This way, the rights of people who don't have access to lawyers are still protected by the claim. The eligibility criteria are different for each class action.

You'll be notified if you're involved in a class action. If you want to opt-out, you'll have to do this by a specific date set by the court. If you opt-out, you remove yourself from a claim completely and won't be affected by the outcome. However, this also means that you won't be able to take advantage of any of the outcomes and you won't share in the benefits. You can still make your own individual claim if you want to. 

It's a good idea to seek advice before deciding to opt-out and consider your options.

Settlement

Class action settlements need to be approved by the court. If a settlement is reached, the representative will propose this for the court to consider. The court will hold a settlement approval hearing to determine whether they approve of the proposed settlement.

They will generally consider if:

  1. The settlement and legal costs are fair and reasonable considering the claims made on behalf of the group.
  2. The settlement is in the best interests of the group members and representative, and not just that of the defendant and representative.

Group members have the opportunity to object if they don't agree with the proposed settlement.

Once a settlement is approved, a Settlement Scheme is implemented outlining how funds will be distributed amongst group members. The process of distributing the funds can be complicated and very time consuming. 

Types of class actions can include:

Negligence

When an avoidable disaster impacts a large number of people, a negligence class action provides an avenue for victims to seek compensation.
 

Examples of class actions we've pursued class actions on behalf of victims:
 

  • Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria
  • Montara oil spill
  • Queensland floods

Selling defective medical products

Defective medical products can cause serious injury, ongoing health problems and diminished quality of life. Our class actions have pursued compensation from companies whose defective breast, knee and hip implant products have caused significant suffering for Australian patients.
 

Examples of class actions we've pursued:
 

  • DePuy (LCS Duofix Femoral Component) 

Mistreatment of vulnerable people

We have a responsibility to give a voice to vulnerable people who suffer at the hands of those who are more powerful. We've pursued class actions on behalf of disabled residents mistreated in care, victims of abuse in detention facilities, and falsely imprisoned youths.
 

Examples of class actions we've pursued:
 

  • NT Youth Justice
  • Action on behalf of people detained on Christmas Island

Misleading shareholders

Companies that act in a way that is misleading or deceptive can put the financial future of shareholders at risk.
 

We've run class actions relating to disclosure issues and misleading conduct by companies in takeovers, in prospectuses and in ASX releases. We've resolved shareholder and listed securities class actions for in excess of $100 million, and have done so eight times now.
 

Examples of class actions related to misleading conduct we pursued:

  • NAB
  • QBE

Unfair selling practices

Consumers are protected by law against unfair and deceptive sales practices. We pursue class actions on behalf of Australian consumers.

Price fixing and market rigging

It's illegal for competitors to work together to agree to set the price for something rather than compete against each other. Price fixing and market rigging can make prices go up, reduce choices and impact the livelihoods of businesses and consumers. We pursue class actions on behalf of Australian businesses and consumers. 
 

Some examples:

  • Amcor/Visy
  • Air Cargo

Why Maurice Blackburn?

We're Australia’s leading class action practice, having recovered more than $3.7 billion for clients. Our reputation is unparalleled.

We run class actions on a
no win, no fee* basis.

We've secured more than $3.7 billion in settlements for our clients. 

It doesn't cost you anything to know where you stand 

1800 305 568
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Our Canberra office is now closed, but our team continues to serve ACT clients and are available for phone and video appointments. If you need legal advice, please call us on 1800 675 346.

We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Tasmania. If you need a lawyer in Hobart, Launceston or elsewhere in Tasmania, please call us on 1800 675 346.