PRESS RELEASE EMBARGO MIDNIGHT 26 SEPTEMBER 2005
Law Reform Commission publishes Report on Multi-Party Litigation
Tuesday 27 September 2005: The Law Reform Commission’s Report on Multi-Party Litigation will be formally launched by Mrs Justice Susan Denham, Judge of the Supreme Court, at the Commission’s offices at 6pm this evening.
Background to the Report
The Report to be launched today forms part of the Commission’s Programme of Law Reform 2000 – 2007. It follows the publication by the Commission in 2003 of a Consultation Paper on Multi-Party Litigation. Multi-party litigation refers to situations where a number of parties are involved in a single piece of litigation. Well known examples are the army deafness claims, social welfare equality cases and asbestos exposure claims. While multi-party litigation can take make forms, the Report focuses on the potential for reform of private multi-party litigation. Private multi-party litigation in Ireland is usually processed by way of test cases. The Commission has concluded that that to date ad hoc arrangements have been used to deal with the demands of multi-party litigation and that a more structured approach should be available.
The Commission has recommended that any reform in this area should be based on principles of procedural fairness, efficiency and access to justice. In particular, there should be active case management of such cases by the courts, in keeping with the general trend in the reform of civil procedure. The Report has recommended the introduction of a procedure to be called a Multi-Party Action (MPA). The MPA would operate as a flexible tool to deal collectively with cases that are sufficiently similar.
Summary of Key Recommendations
- The new form of private multi-party litigation should be called a Multi-Party Action (MPA) and should be introduced by way of Rules of Court;
- The MPA procedure should deal only with common issues among the individuals actions involved;
- The MPA procedure should operate the basis of a opt-in system whereby individual litigants will be included in the group only where they decide to join the group action (this is very different from the US class action procedure in which individuals are deemed to be part of the class action unless they opt-out);
- The MPA would require certification by a court before it could become established;
- The court would certify the MPA only where it was considered to offer a fair and efficient means of resolving the common issues involved;
- The court would establish an MPA Register, containing a list of the cases in the MPA;
- The court would where appropriate select lead cases to go forward as representative of those in the group;
- The court would set a general cut-off date for entry onto the MPA;
- A single legal representative would be agreed to by the MPA members or nominated to deal with the common issue arising within the MPA;
- The costs associated with the MPA would be spread among its members in equal measure;
- Where an individual member of the MPA would have been eligible as an individual litigant for civil legal aid, they should continue to be eligible for aid to the extent of their share of the costs under an MPA.
The Law Reform Commission was established by the Law Reform Commission Act 1975 as an independent statutory body whose main aim is to keep the law under review and to make practical proposals for its reform. To date, the Commission has published over 100 documents containing proposals for law reform. These are available on the Commission’s website: www.lawreform.ie.
The Commission usually publishes in two stages: first, a Consultation Paper and then a Report. A Consultation Paper is intended to form the basis for discussion and its recommendations, conclusions and suggestions are accordingly provisional. A Consultation Paper on Multi-Party Litigation was published by the Commission in July 2003. This Report represents the final views of the Commission, having taken account of the submissions received on the Consultation Paper.