28 Jul 2014

Clayton Utz partner co-authors class actions law text, highlighting two decades of the industry's evolution

Sydney, 28 July 2014: Australia has a highly mature class action procedure and an industry that continues to grow at a rate unlikely to have been anticipated when the first dedicated class action regime was introduced into the Federal Court over twenty years ago, says Clayton Utz partner Ross McInnes  ̶  the co-author of a new text on class actions law.

Annotated Class Actions Legislation (2014, LexisNexis Butterworths) is the first annotated text on class action law in Australia. Ross and co-author UNSW Associate Professor Michael Legg wrote it in response to what they saw as a need for a practical and comprehensive guide for practitioners in an increasingly complex and evolving area of the law.

"Class action law in Australia has come a long way since 1992, when the first class action regime was introduced," said Ross. "Before that time, there were considerable challenges in managing and resolving aggregated claims in an efficient way. There was procedural uncertainty. The original impetus for the class action regime was twofold: to enhance access to justice by making it viable to pursue a case where the individual loss was small, but the total loss of the aggregated claim was significant, and also to enhance efficiency in Court process by deciding significant issues once for a large number of people.

"Now, we have a dedicated class action industry which is highly sophisticated, with well-established plaintiff law firms and defence lawyers who specialise in the area. The industry really took off following the High Court's decision in the Fostif case in 2006, which confirmed the legitimacy of litigation funding as a legal and viable business.

"The debate has moved on to whether further reform of the industry is needed to ensure the integrity not only of the funding market, but also the Australian litigation industry more widely. There are a range of options which need to take account the interests of a range of stakeholders: claimants, funders, lawyers, business and the courts.

"Clayton Utz supports an informed debate on these reform options, having remained at the forefront of thinking and developments in class actions law and policy. We understand the practical realities of running class action litigation and have a deep understanding of the law in this area."

Annotated Class Actions Legislation contains a section by section analysis of the class action legislative regimes in the Federal Court, Victoria (introduced in 2000) and New South Wales (in 2010). It also provides analysis of relevant case law, discussion of key concepts and reference to useful extrinsic materials such as law reform reports, practice notes and law review articles.

"In the last two decades, a significant amount of jurisprudence has developed to address the peculiarities of class. Through trial and error, practitioners have also discovered the opportunities and risks of running and defending class action proceedings," said Ross. "This text seeks to bring that knowledge together for the benefit of all practitioners and parties who are involved or have an interest in this area."

The Chief Justice of the Federal Court, The Hon. JLB Allsop AO, will officially launch the text at a function at Clayton Utz' Sydney offices tonight.

The text is available for purchase online, at http://store.lexisnexis.com.au/.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.