In the twelve months from 1 July 2014, Australia saw its largest total for class action settlements to date, with a combined payout of $950m in FY15.
Of this figure, almost $800m is made up of natural disaster settlements following the Black Saturday class actions relating to the Kilmore East/Kinglake and the Murrindindi/Marysville bushfires.
The number of actions commenced is continuing to rise. At least 33 new class actions were launched in the 12 months leading up to June 2015, up significantly from FY13 and FY14, and as we go to print at least 5 further actions have already been filed in FY16. As such, it’s not surprising that class actions are seen as a key risk for Australian directors and boards and that they continue to draw new protagonists to the Australian market.
Commenting on the findings, dispute resolution partner and report co-author Moira Saville said, “Class actions are becoming an increasing risk for Australian businesses across a wide range of sectors. Considering a class action is now one of the first responses to unexpected events across a wide range of industries. The combination of increasing numbers of cases and increasingly large settlements is creating a perfect storm for corporate Australia.”
Class actions are also following general economic trends. While in previous periods we have seen claims against construction companies facing issues in meeting forecasts, we are now seeing a trend in claims against mining and mining services companies as well as a return of mass tort and large consumer claims.
In the past year discussion relating to the role of lawyers and funders in a class actions have remained centre stage. This year’s report considers a number of these decisions, the possible introduction of contingency charging by lawyers and looks at the status of the Australian third party litigation funding market.
Co-author and dispute resolution partner Peta Stevenson noted, “What we’re seeing behind the numbers is that the increase in the number of class actions relates to a wider range of claims. The industry is continuing to grow and we are seeing lawyers and funders looking for opportunities in a broader range of scenarios, particularly where they can leverage the size of the class. This trend shows no signs of slowing down.”
Download our fourth annual report, The Review – Class Actions in Australia 2014/2015 which examines key class action decisions from July 2014 to June 2015 as well as current proposals for reform. It provides an analysis of how these decisions are likely to affect future proceedings for both plaintiffs and defendants.
- Key themes
- Section one: Headlines
- Section two: Litigation Funding and ‘Spotlight on funders’ table
- Section three: Entrepreneurial lawyering comes under attack
- Section four: Claims against the state
- Section five: Settlements
- Section six: Class action procedure — key developments
- Section seven: Global developments
- Section eight: Outlook