For those of you who are fans of the Good Wife and Suits, Group Litigation Orders (or GLO’s for short) are the UK version of what are often called Class Actions in other jurisdictions.
Not often used in the UK, GLO’s are becoming an increasingly popular way for groups of individuals with similar complaints to band together against their wrongdoer. In order for case to qualify for a GLO there must be ‘sufficient particularisation’. What this means is that all claimants must have sufficiently common or related issues of fact or law. What is key is that the group’s circumstances are sufficiently similar for a decision made about one or a set of cases to be determinative enough to settle the entire group.
Once a GLO is made by the Court, a register of claims under that order is set up. The court normally sets a cut-off point for any further litigations to join the group. Taking a case outside of that group action may be difficult. If you want to check what GLO’s are currently active click here.
The Court will then allow that Group Action to proceed and will make directions as to how it is to progress, under the nominated lead solicitor.
Should the case progress to trial the court with management of the action has the option to give directions for a trial of common issues, which will bind the group, and also for the trial of individual issues.
The Positives of Group Litigation
- Collective bargaining power
GLO’s are a new way of reversing the David and Goliath maxim. As a claimant it can be daunting bringing cases against large corporations as you feel very much like one person against a corporate machine. Being part of group action can redress that balance.
It may be that your claim on its own has a relatively modest value and therefore going it alone may not be proportionate. Joining multiple claims together increases the value of the claim as a whole ensuring the economics make sense. An example of recent litigation where this was the case was the Poly Implant Prothèses (PIP) breast implant litigation. Here the claims had a relatively modest individual value as a personal injury claim, but by joining together the claim had more financial clout and was able to pay for expensive expert evidence. .
- Cost sharing (both claimant & adverse)
When you hear the word ‘solicitor’ often the first thought that crosses people’s mind is the cost. Pursuing litigation can be a costly process. By coming together as a group, funding arrangements can be put in place which can reduce risk. As a group these arrangements may often be more favourable than funding arrangements for individuals. For example the cost of obtaining expensive After the Event Insurance policies to protect against the risk of paying the other side’s costs can be shared. A £50,000 insurance policy suddenly becomes feasible when there are a hundred of you.
- Test cases
Although you as an individual in the group may not be the ‘test case’ you as part of the group benefit from the decision in that test case. By each side selecting one or a group of cases to ‘test’ this significantly reduces the costs and time required to prepare each matter for trial.