Group Litigation: How our Panel can Assist
What is group litigation?
Group litigation, also known as a “group action”, is a prominent legal mechanism in England and Wales. It’s a process that enables multiple claimants who have similar grievances, arising from common or related issues of fact or law, to come together and litigate their claims collectively.
At the heart of this mechanism is the Group Litigation Order (GLO). This order, issued by the High Court, specifies that certain claims, which form the basis of the group action, can be managed together because they rise to common or closely related issues. These issues may pertain to matters of fact, law, or both. The GLO streamlines case management and ensures consistent and efficient handling of multiple claims.
Upon the issuance of a GLO, a group register is established. This register serves as a comprehensive list of all the claims that fall under that particular group action. Claimants wishing to be part of the group action must register their claims by a specified cut off date. This ensures that the case management process remains organized and time-bound.
While group litigation in England and Wales operates on an “opt-in” basis, it draws comparisons to “class actions” found in other jurisdictions, which often operate on an “opt-out” system. However, there’s a clear distinction between the two, especially in how they manage and represent claimants.
Moreover, alongside group actions, there’s another legal avenue known as representative claims. In these claims, a single claimant can sue on behalf of themselves and others who have the same interest. Although both mechanisms aim to address multiple claimants with shared grievances, they have distinct procedural differences.
Commercial group litigation
Commercial group litigation typically arises when multiple claimants have suffered losses due to the actions or omissions of a defendant, typically a corporation or business entity, in the commercial arena. These cases often relate to product liability, competition law breaches, and other commercial disputes. Here are some examples of commercial group litigation:
- Companies can face group litigation if a product they sell is faulty or dangerous. For example, manufacturers of medical devices, pharmaceuticals, or automotive components may face claims from customers if their products cause harm or do not work as intended.
Competition law breaches:
- Companies involved in cartels or other anti-competitive practices might face group litigation from customers or competitors who suffered losses due to these practices. This could involve price-fixing, market-sharing, or other restrictive practices.
Securities and shareholder actions:
- Companies can face group litigation from shareholders if the company has made misleading statements or failed to disclose important information which affects the value of its shares.
- With the increasing importance of data privacy, companies that suffer data breaches may face group actions from affected individuals or businesses if there was negligence in protecting data.
- Companies involved in activities leading to environmental damage might face group litigation from affected communities or entities. For instance, an oil spill affecting multiple fishers or a chemical leak affecting several farmers could lead to a group action.
Construction and property:
- Group litigation can arise from property owners or developers affected by construction defects or from homeowners impacted by defective building materials.
Supply chain disputes:
- If a supplier delivers defective components or materials to several businesses, those businesses might band together to litigate against the supplier.
Travel and tourism:
- Tour operators or airlines might face group litigation if a large number of customers suffer harm or loss due to the company’s actions or negligence. This could be due to widespread travel disruptions, hotel issues, or other travel-related problems.
These examples underscore the diverse nature of commercial group litigation. While the specifics of each case vary, the underlying principle is consistent: multiple claimants come together to address shared grievances against a common defendant, pooling resources and efforts to achieve justice.
The role of a solicitor in a group action
In a group action, the role of a solicitor is multifaceted and crucial to the efficient and effective representation of the claimants’ collective interests. Here’s a breakdown of the key roles and responsibilities of a solicitor in a group action:
Initial assessment and advice:
- Solicitors first assess the merits of potential claims to determine if a group action is viable. They advise potential claimants on the strength of their claims, potential risks, benefits of joining a group action, and the expected course of litigation.
Formation of the group:
- Solicitors play a vital role in assembling the group of claimants. This involves identifying individuals or entities with similar grievances, informing them about the benefits of collective action, and guiding them through the process of joining the group.
Liaison and communication:
- Given that a group action involves multiple claimants, clear communication is paramount. Solicitors act as the primary point of contact for the claimants, ensuring they are regularly updated about the progress of the case, key decisions, and any settlement offers.
Preparation of documentation:
- Solicitors prepare essential legal documents, including the particulars of claim, evidence submissions, and witness statements. In the context of a group action, ensuring consistency and clarity across multiple claims is crucial.
Group Litigation Order (GLO) application:
- Solicitors play a crucial role in applying for a GLO from the court, which formally allows the claims to be managed collectively. They help define the common or related issues that the group action will address.
- Solicitors handle the administrative aspects of the litigation, including adherence to court timetables, engagement with experts (if required), and interactions with the opposing party’s legal representatives.
Representation in Court:
- While barristers often represent claimants in court hearings in the UK, solicitors prepare the groundwork by collating evidence, briefing the barristers, and ensuring that the legal strategy is coherent and effective.
Negotiation and settlement:
- If there’s an opportunity for an out-of-court settlement, solicitors will engage in negotiations on behalf of the group. They will advise the claimants on the terms of any settlement offers and help ensure that any settlement is distributed fairly among the claimants.
Costs and funding arrangements:
- Solicitors advise on and sometimes arrange suitable funding options for the litigation, such as conditional fee agreements or litigation funding. They also manage the costs and ensure that they are appropriately shared among the claimants.
How can Expert Commercial law assist?
Expert Commercial Law has a panel of group litigation solicitors who can assist on commercial cases.
All of the solicitors on our panel have the experience and expertise required to take on your case. We only select the best in the business. All of our solicitor firms are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and offer a range of funding options for your case.
If you are looking for more information surrounding commercial solicitors and how our team can help, please do not hesitate to get in touch today.
We are not a firm of solicitors; we have a panel of commercial law solicitors. If you contact us in relation to a commercial law case, whether you are looking for formal legal advice or cost-effective assistance on your case, we will pass your case on to a panel firm.
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Please note, we are not a firm of solicitors; however, we maintain a panel of trusted and regulated legal experts. If you contact us in relation to a commercial law case, we will pass your case onto a panel firm in return for a fee from our panel firms. We will never charge you for passing on your case to a panel firm.