Currently, groups of people in Scotland who have similar claims against the same defender have to seek compensation separately. The Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill was published by the Scottish Parliament in June 2017 and seeks to introduce multi-party actions which will allow groups claiming under similar circumstances to seek a claim as a class action.
What is a class action?
A class action is also referred to as a multi-party claim and is a court procedure which enables a group of individuals with similar complaints against the same defender to seek a judicial remedy in one action instead of each raising separate actions.
To raise a multi-party action there must be;
- a number of possible claimants or pursuers; and
- a single issue or a number of issues which are common to all the possible claims.
Multi-party actions make it possible for all claims to be dealt with in a single litigation and the advantages of a single litigation outweigh the disadvantages.
What is considered a class action?
There are three situations where individuals have the same or similar rights and therefore similar claims:
Arising from a single event (sudden mass disaster)
In these cases, a number of people are killed or injured in the same event. Over 25 years ago, the destruction of the Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland resulted in 270 deaths. All the people shared the causal relationship between the event and the resulting loss, injury or damage. Following the disaster, they received compensation from the Libyan Government.
More recently, it was reported that a group of British citizens who were victims of a gun attack on a Tunisian beach resort in 2015 had started legal action against Thomson Holidays (part of the TUI group), claiming they had failed to provide adequate security at its hotel.
Attributable to a single cause, but occurring at different times and in different circumstances (creeping disaster, product liability or medical claims)
Typical cases that fall in to this category are claims for damages in respect of allegedly defective drugs, such as tranquillisers. There is likely to be no connection between the claimants other than that they claim to have been injured by the same drug.
In 2016 it was reported that 88 victims were seeking £1,000,000 in compensation over claims that particles of metal from hip implants caused toxic debris to damage nerves and muscles.
In 2013 group actions were brought by thousands of women who were fitted with defective breast implants. TUV Rheinland, which certified the implants, was found jointly liable with France’s PIP (Poly Implant Prothèse) over the global scare.
Arising from transactions as consumers (consumer claim)
These are typically claims by purchasers of defective goods or services for damage to property or financial loss. In March 2017 it was widely reported that more than 35,000 motorists have joined a class action lawsuit against VW in England and Wales over the emissions scandal. Around 1.2 million vehicles were fitted with “defeat devices” which are illegal under English and EU Law. All owners of affected vehicles could have the potential to claim, regardless of whether they still have the car or not.
In another consumer claim, individuals who were left injured and burned by “toxic sofas” bought from the now defunct Land of Leather furniture chain won a settlement totalling £750,000.
Pros and cons of raising a class action claim
A class action claim makes available to all the members of a group or class an effective remedy which they could not otherwise obtain The legal costs are spread across various parties which reduces litigation costs when compared to a single individual action.
That said, depending on how large the class is, it can mean that awards for individual pursuers can be lower.
Further information regarding the introduction of multi-party actions can be read on the Scottish Parliament’s website.
Our specialist solicitors are able to advise you on all aspects of class action claims.