The new report, Class Actions – The year in review 2011, released Friday, examines class action decisions and provides analysis of how courts’ management and determination of class actions in Australia impacts outcomes for plaintiffs and defendants. The report also makes predictions for the coming year.
“We expect the courts to take a much more active approach to managing class actions. This will include pressing parties to prosecute their claims quickly and efficiently, and making greater use of preliminary questions and perhaps the summary judgment procedure to determine issues at an early stage,” said King & Wood Mallesons partner and author of the report, Moira Saville.
The report says courts are eager to see litigation, especially lengthy and costly class action, settled quickly to avoid the associated risks, costs, business disruption and delays. It predicts courts will work to encourage parties to engage in mediation and other mechanisms to settle disputes.
During the past year, courts have commented on the legal fees payable under a number of settlements. Judicial expressions of concern were raised over the $25 million in fees and costs in the Visy/ Amcor class action, for example.
The report also notes judicial reflections in the bushfire class action that a “no win, no fee” with a 25 per cent uplift on solicitors’ fees represented a “paradigm example of a case where an uplift fee on the conditional component of professional fees is appropriate”.
Saville said King & Wood Mallesons also expects class action proceedings to move more quickly as parties seek to use the relatively new Fast Track procedure recently introduced in the Federal Court, which involves a strictly enforced timetable for the steps to hearing and judgement.