The Queensland Parliament has recently passed legislation to amend the Civil Proceedings Act 2011 (the Act) to facilitate class actions (also referred to as representative proceedings) in Queensland courts . The commencement date for the amendments is yet to be proclaimed.
Queensland currently has a limited structure for the institution of representative proceedings in the state courts, allowing a proceeding to be started or continued by or against one or more persons who have the same interest in the subject matter of the proceeding. The difficulty with the current provisions is that one person / party will rarely have the same interest in a proceeding as another. Whilst common factual or other issues may tie the class of persons together, their respective interests in the proceedings are usually distinct, therefore limiting the utility of the current representative proceeding provisions.
As a result of the limited scope of the current regime, many Queensland-based class action plaintiffs have sought adjudication of their claims in alternate jurisdictions, such as interstate courts, or the Federal Court, which have more expansive class action provisions and can facilitate more than one interest in a proceeding.
The amendments will bring Queensland into line with the other interstate jurisdictions, inserting a new part 13A into the Act allowing representative proceedings to be commenced in the Supreme Court where:
- 7 or more persons have claims against the same person;
- the claims of all the persons are in respect of, or arise out of, the same, similar or related circumstances; and
- the claims of all the persons give rise to a substantial common issue of law or fact.
From a commercial perspective, the amendments may assist businesses by consolidating what would otherwise be multiple claims into a single action, thereby potentially reducing the costs associated with separate proceedings by multiple claimants. There will also be advantages to confining proceedings to Queensland-based courts, rather than potentially facing costly and inconvenient interstate proceedings.
Watch this space for further details once the commencement date for the amendments is announced, likely to be in early 2017.