On Monday, 24 June 2013, the French Minister for Social Affairs and Health, Marisol Touraine, announced on television that she was "favourable to the implementation of class actions in matters relating to health".
The information had leaked out a few days before, at the time of a meeting of the Commission for Economic Affairs of the French National Assembly that took place on 11 June 2013 on the Consumer Bill, which provides for the introduction of class actions in the French Consumer Code (except in the health and environmental sectors).
Benoît Hamon (Minister Delegate with the Minister for Economy and Finance, with responsibility for the Social and Cooperative Economy and Consumer Affairs) had suggested during this meeting that "Marisol Touraine [[was] already working on the principle of a class action extended to the losses occurring in matters relating to health, which could be included in the future Public Health Law" (Report made on behalf of the Commission for Economic Affairs on the Consumer Bill by Razzy Hammadi and Annick Le Loch, Members of Parliament, submitted to the National Assembly on 13 June 2013 – http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/14/rapports/r1156.asp).
These statements were rather surprising due to the fact that the Consumer Bill is currently being discussed and that there is, therefore, no hindsight or feedback on class actions in France.
The intervention of the Minister for Health on television, which has been significantly taken up by the media, does not provide many details at this stage. The Minister has indicated that a bill specific to the health sector would be submitted at the beginning of 2014, which should include a suggested class action with "specific rules", yet without specifying the details of such a proposal.
However, this statement gives rise to many questions, concerning, notably, the issues of causation and the assessment of the loss as the class actions would handle in a collective manner cases that, by nature, depend on individual factors. In this context, one can question the relevance of such a tool, which is certainly fashionable, while other mechanisms (Regional Conciliation and Compensation Commissions, ad hoc compensation funds) already exist for health issues and could be improved.
The considered reform would greatly affect liability actions related to health products in France.