Group funding legislation for class actions will ‘improve access to justice’
The Victorian government has introduced legislation intending to make it easier to bring class actions for silicosis, wage theft and other forms of wrongdoing.
The Justice Legislation Miscellaneous Amendments Bill 2019 will “pave the way” for class actions to proceed where they otherwise may not have been viable, state Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said in a statement.
“The changes will allow lawyers to receive a ‘contingency fee’, a fee that is calculated as a percentage of the settlement of damages,” the statement said.
“Class actions are an important tool in our justice system, as they allow a case with six or more plaintiffs, to combine their action. Class actions provide vulnerable groups such as workers and consumers to access lawyers to bring cases against corporations for wrongdoing.
“These changes will allow lawyers to indemnify the lead plaintiff to remove the fear and risk of adverse costs, if the class action is unsuccessful.”
Moreover, the A-G’s Department noted, the bill will make minor and technical amendments to various justice acts to clarify and simplify their operation.
“These reforms will improve access to justice by reducing barriers to commencing class actions in the Victorian Supreme Court,” Ms Hennessy said.
“Class actions play a critical role in our justice system, and it’s important that people with meritorious claims are provided with every opportunity to have their matter heard.
“It’s not fair for a lead plaintiff to individually bear the cost risks of a class action matter. The reforms will ensure that plaintiff lawyers indemnify the lead plaintiff for any adverse costs orders.”
Australian Lawyers Alliance commended the legislation, saying it will help more people access the legal system.
“The ALA welcomes this legislation as it is will directly improve access to justice in Victoria,” said ALA Victorian state president Jeremy King.
“The new law will increase the flexibility and availability of funding which will enable more people to obtain justice through class actions. It will clearly benefit vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals who may otherwise be unable to pursue a claim because of the cost and, ultimately, it will mean more compensation makes it into the pockets of class action members.
“We are very pleased to see that the proposed legislation requires group funding arrangements to have court approval so there will be appropriate oversight and regulation. This will ensure that the interests of class action members are always protected.
“We are pleased to see the government is making a change to policy that is evidence based and designed to improve access to justice.”