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'CLASS ACTIONS' IN ENGLAND & WALES: A BRIEF OVERVIEW (B1+)



If a group of people are, for example, physically injured or financially harmed by the wrongdoing of somebody else, it can make good sense for the individual cases to be heard and decided together. This allows the individual parties to share the risks involved in litigation, as well as being more efficient for everyone involved, including the court system. It also allows a group of individuals to bring legal proceedings against possibly very large corporations who may have a lot of financial and legal resources.


In England & Wales, this kind of collective litigation is not called a ‘class action’ but ‘group litigation’. The rules of civil procedure in England & Wales (collectively known as the ‘Civil Procedure Rules’ or ‘CPR’) provide mechanisms for group litigation. The main provisions for group litigation are found in the CPR, rule 19. CPR rule 19.10 states:


“A Group Litigation Order (GLO) means an order made under rule 19.11 to provide for the case management of claims which give rise to common or related issues of fact or law (the ‘GLO issues’).”


We can see that, for a Group Litigation Order (GLO) to be made, the claims must have common or related issues of fact or law. If a court makes a GLO, the claims are then placed onto a special ‘register’ for the purposes of case management.


Rule 19 of the Civil Procedure Rules also has a relevant ‘Practice Direction’. Practice Direction 19B sets out, for example, some preliminary steps that must be taken before a Group Litigation Order is made. This includes the appointment of a ‘lead solicitor (lawyer)’ with an agreed and defined role in the group litigation.


Group Litigation Orders were introduced with the Civil Procedure Rules, which came into force in 2000. Between 2000 and July 2020, only 109 Group Litigation Orders have been made by the English courts. One order, made in 2017, relates to the tragic ‘Hillsborough Disaster’ in April 1989, when 96 Liverpool football supporters lost their lives. This litigation is called the ‘Hillsborough Victims Litigation’. Among the issues are whether the officials of certain English police forces tried to conceal the true circumstances of the tragedy and so avoid criminal and civil liability.


The kinds of claim that may be the subject of a GLO are wide. Among the 109 GLOs that have been made so far, the issues concerned have included environmental issues, product liability, and medical negligence. The range of possible civil actions that may be involved is very wide.


In relation to the legal remedies that may be provided, these are again very wide. They include damages (financial compensation) and declaratory relief (where the rights of the parties are defined and relief such as an injunction may be granted).



EXERCISE 1.

Find a word or phrase in the text which means:

1. Illegal, unlawful, or dishonest behaviour by someone.

2. The act or process of bringing an issue to court to be decided.

3. The name for the process of the official regulation and administration of a matter before a court.

4. entered into legal effect

5. legal responsibility for something


EXERCISE 2

Can you think of some concrete advantages of group litigation? [You will find just a few suggestions in the Answer Key, below]




ANSWER KEY


EXERCISE 1

1 wrongdoing

2 litigation

3 case management

4 came into force

5 liability



EXERCISE 2


1. Legal advice and documentation can be shared between the solicitors (lawyers) who represent the individual claimants in the group litigation.

2. The costs of the litigation can be minimised/reduced because they can be spread across the whole group of claimants.

3. The risk a claimant might have to pay the whole costs of the legal proceedings is reduced, because ‘group funding’ arrangements can be put in place.

4. It can encourage claimants to take legal proceedings who may not do so otherwise. People feel safer and more confident in a group.


[Note: This material is intended for educational purposes only. If you need legal advice on any matter, you should consult an appropriate lawyer for advice and representation]


© Cambridge Legal English Academy 2020






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