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Snapshot: Expert report debunks myth of Australia as a class action haven

A recent report has debunked the myth of an Australian class action boom, providing some perspective to critics’ hysteria over a litigious culture following in the footsteps of the United States. The report examined class action rates in different countries, noting that Australia was hardly the “out of control” class-action happy jurisdiction critics claimed, compared globally [1].

Vince Morabito, Australia’s class action expert, found that Australia had a mere 563 class actions since the Federal Court introduced its class action regime in 1992 [2]. By contrast, Israel experienced almost 6000 class actions between 2007 and 2015 – ten times the number filed in Australia in the past 26 years [3].

In Ontario Canada, 1459 class actions were filed between 1993 and 2017 in a province where the population is half of Australia’s. The numbers were similar in Quebec, and Australia was at least comparable to Poland in terms of volume filed [4].

Morabito also examined competing class actions in Australia, criticising ALRC reform proposals which force trial judges to choose one among multiple competing class actions, as occurred in the widely scrutinised Perera v Getswift decision [5].

The proposals would force courts to choose one class action unless it was satisfied doing so was “inefficient or otherwise antithetical to the interests of justice”. Morabito questioned the point of a directive which, in one sense, forced judges to make a single choice, but then gave them a wide discretion to refuse this in the “interests of justice”.

That position would cause no meaningful change in the law, he opined, but rather breed “uncertainty” among courts and practitioners [6].

Morabito’s report An Evidence Based Approach to Class Action reform in Australia is the first in a series, which collates data from leading class-action lawyers to provide an empirical understanding of class action culture in Australia [7].

References:

[1] Michael Pelly, ‘Expert debunks claims that Australia is a class action haven’, AFR (July 2018) < https://www.afr.com/business/legal/expert-debunks-claims-that-australia-is-a-class-action-haven-20180713-h12nb7>

[2] Christian Caulfield, ‘Expert report debunks myth of Australian class action boom’, Lawyerly (July 2018) < https://lawyerly.com.au/expert-report-debunks-myth-australian-class-action-boom/>

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Above no 1.