As reported today in the UK trade publication Professional Pensions, the Civil Justice Council, a governmental advisory committee charged with studying and recommending policy decisions relating to civil justice issues, issued a report earlier this month recommending that enhanced collective action procedures be adopted in the British civil courts. The procedures, if adopted, would include many of the features of class actions in the United States. Many of the recommendations are similar to those recently recommended by an advisory group in the Australian state of Victoria.
Here is a summary of the panel’s recommendations:
1) Introduction of a generic collective action procedure;
2) Procedures to allow a wider range of representatives to bring collective actions, ranging from individuals to “ad hoc bodies”;
3) Permitting both opt-in and opt-out actions, with tolling procedures to apply during the pendency of an opt-out action;
4) Strict certification requirements;
5) Enhanced case management of collective actions by specialized judges;
6) Permitting awards of aggregate damages in opt-out actions, which would involve changes to both procedural and substantive law;
7) Requirement that the court conduct a fairness hearing to evaluate the fairness of a collective action settlement to absent parties;
8) “Full” cost-shifting;
9) Cy pres awards allowing unclaimed funds to be distributed to a foundation or trust;
10) Recommendation that the changes be introduced by legislation as opposed to by changes to the civil rules.