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Class Action Update: Q1 2017 - 25 years of federal class actions

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Welcome to Class Action Update Q1 2017.

This month marks 25 years of the class action regime in the Federal Court of Australia, and the commencement of the class action regime in Queensland.

In this edition:

In the market place:

Since our last update, at least eight new class actions have been commenced, including in relation to:

  • securities class actions against Bellamy's Australia Limited (two actions filed), Spotless Group Holdings Limited and Sirtex Medical Limited;
  • crowd crush at the 2016 Lorne Falls Festival;
  • alleged inappropriate treatment of detainees in Northern Territory youth detention centres;
  • a new Commonwealth Government policy that would allow the confiscation of mobile phones and SIM cards in the possession of persons in immigration detention; and
  • alleged continuous disclosure failures by Myer in 2014 and 2015, concerning conduct that was also the subject of a stayed securities class action brought by Melbourne City Investments.

We have also seen a number of potential class actions announced, including in relation to:

  • the January 2017 Currandooley fire;
  • alleged continuous disclosure failures by Crown Resorts;
  • alleged norovirus infections involving hundreds of cruise ship passengers; and
  • add-on insurance products sold through car dealers.

Further, this quarter we saw:

  • the commencement of the class action regime in Queensland on 1 March (read our article here), and the introduction of a new Supreme Court Practice Direction relating to the conduct of class action proceedings;
  • the consolidation of the two Vocation class actions, with Maurice Blackburn and Slater and Gordon to jointly represent the combined class;
  • settlement of the 2014 Mickleham-Kilmore bushfire class action (subject to court approval);
  • the discontinuance of various bank fee class actions, following the High Court's decision that late payment fees charged by ANZ did not constitute penalties (read our article on the decision here); and
  • an appeal filed and then discontinued in relation to the Palm Island class action (read our article on the decision here).

Our watch list for the quarter ahead includes:

  • trials for the Ford, Christmas Island detention and Manus Island detention class actions;
  • expected filing of a class action against the Department of Defence for alleged contamination of land in Oakey, after the lawyers for the claimants announced that litigation funding had become unconditional; and
  • case management hearings for the two Bellamy's class actions, which have both been filed on an open class basis (read our article on competing class actions here).

We hope you find this edition of our Class Action Update informative.


Signposts

Directors in the gun for climate change risks

In recent months, there have been prominent media reports on the potential for landmark climate change litigation. While the motivations and merits of climate change activists and litigators will not be examined here, the prospect of litigation against company directors is a salient reminder that climate change risks cannot be ignored.

ACCC's Big Bucket List for 2017

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims has set out the ACCC's newly released Enforcement and Compliance Policy for 2017, setting out the areas of priority for investigation this year.

Mandatory data breach reporting Bill enacted in Australia

The Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Bill 2016 was passed by the Australian Parliament on 13 February 2017, with potential retroactive effect.

The end of the "charge"? NSW Law Reform Commission Report on third party access to insurance proceeds in litigation

The Report considered section 6 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1946 (NSW), which, in general terms, permits a plaintiff to recover damages or compensation directly from a defendant's insurance proceeds.

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