What is a Representative Action?

Commonly referred to as a ‘Class Action’, a representative action involves 7 or more people, each with the same or similar disputes against the same individual or company.

It is an action that can only be run through the Federal Court of Australia and must be in accordance with the Federal Court Rules.

There is no limit as to the size of the action or the members therein. To date, the largest class action recorded is Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc which was run in the United States of America and had 1.6 million members, all women regarding a sexually discriminating clause in the workplace.

There are both positives and negatives of a representative action, in that individual costs are minimal and the strength in numbers can provide a much greater chance of success, but at the same time proceedings can be extremely lengthy and complex, with a number of directives that must be adhered to.

If you think you may have a potential representative class action, it’s vital that you contact the commercial litigation lawyers at Attwood Marshall for further information and advice. We will ensure all directives are followed and complications are minimised, and our specialised knowledge and experience in class actions will give you the best chance of a case in your favour.

What are the positives of the representative action?

Minimal costs per individual compared to that of an individual litigation action. also, equality amongst class members both in services provided and costs expended. Strength with documents from other clients to support the case as a whole. Support from other class members, should the need arise for members to communicate between themselves. Opportunities for blanket and in some cases favourable outcomes as to possible settlements prior to the finalisation of the action.

What are the negatives of a representative action?

Length of proceedings as well as time expended for research, production of documents and obtaining evidence.  The larger the class member size, the longer the case is expected to take to accrue documents and information necessary to support the action as a whole.

Further, recently a practice direction was released from the Federal Court with several directives for the class action to adhere to. This practice direction poses many issues, some of which include increased time for proceedings to be heard which would naturally follow on with additional costs charged by the legal representatives and additional requirements for legal representatives on both sides to adhere to prior to every directions hearing or motion heard.

To overcome these practice directions, recently the courts have started ‘mirroring’ representative action proceedings without determining them to be that. when running a single or multiple test cases, keeping the remainder of the class members cases in abeyance and using the precedent of the test cases to determine that of the other member’s cases.

Contact our Commercial Litigation Department Manager Amanda Heather on direct line 07 5506 8245, email her at aheather@attwoodmarshall.com.au or phone our free call 1800 621 071 to make an appointment or to obtain more information or use our Online Enquiry Form to send us your details.

With four offices conveniently located at Kingscliff | Coolangatta | Robina | Brisbane, you can also visit us at an office near you.