Many of our followers will be familiar with the concept of a ‘class action’ thanks to Julia Roberts and John Travolta, in 90s hit films Erin Brockovich and A Civil Action. A class action is one where a group of claimants have the same complaint, for example, an illness caused by harmful chemicals in the water supply.
Class actions do not yet exist in Scotland, however recommendations from the Scottish Law Commission to introduce this type of procedure to the Scottish Courts are being considered by the Scottish Government.
Class actions may benefit those making claims in respect of faulty products, since these claims quite often have common issues. The English Courts have used this procedure to good effect in cases alleging faulty products, ranging from metal on metal hip implants and PIP breast implants to motor vehicles, cosmetics, toys and even McDonald’s coffee cups!
From the claimant’s point of view, the main advantage to joining a class action is that ‘unity is strength’. A claim that would have been difficult to bring on your own is made easier if you are one of 500 people who can help with the heavy-lifting. The lack of an equivalent Scottish procedure (for now) isn’t necessarily a barrier to gaining strength in numbers. The largest class action (or ‘group litigation’) so far in England involved over 4,000 claimants who suffered burns from chemicals in leather sofas.
Our specialist product liability team handled a number of the Scottish leather sofa cases, and through the established networks we have with the English solicitors leading the group litigation, we were able to ensure that the Scottish claimants achieved a successful outcome.