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The litigation landscape in the UK and across Europe is undergoing significant change. For many years “collective” or “class” actions in Europe were a possibility in theory, but were little used in practice. Recent times have seen an explosion of interest in these actions. New forms of group claim are proliferating, and England & Wales in particular has been at the forefront of this trend. The filing of the first UK “opt-out” consumer class action in September 2016 – a claim of GBP 14 billion – represents an important milestone, and potentially a turning point. These developments have been accompanied by important changes in the way that claims may be financed, and how the risks and costs of litigation are distributed.
To some these developments represent a welcome revolution in the way that civil justice is achieved. Grouping similar claims together can be far more efficient, and economies of scale can make it viable for consumers to pursue redress even for smaller claims. Others fear that class actions won’t deliver on their promise of greater efficiency, and can alter the risks and rewards of litigation to an extent that incentivizes the pursuit of more speculative claims.
Our panelists have been studying these developments closely from different perspectives.
Stephen O’Dowd is a Senior Director at Harbour Litigation Funding and his firm has been involved in financing collective actions in England, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. He has been following trends in funding and collective redress for many years and has specific expertise in assessing collective actions and competition law claims. He will offer perspectives on how the profile of claimants using funding is changing (banks, listed entities, insurance companies and countries) as well as every type of law firm and how the availability of funding for collective actions is leading them to use funding across a wider range of claims.
Christopher Hodges is Professor of Justice Systems, and head of the Swiss Re/CMS Research Programme on Civil Justice Systems, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford. He has researched and published widely on civil redress and collective redress issues, including books on the Costs and Funding of Civil Litigation, Consumer ADR in Europe, and on Law and Corporate Behaviour. He will put the development of court-based collective redress into its broader practical and policy context and in particular will examine whether more efficient models of redress are achievable through sectoral regulators and/or ombudsmen.
Ken Daly is a partner in Sidley Austin LLP’s Brussels office, and focuses on competition law enforcement, litigation before EU, UK, US and other courts, and on the development of EU law and policy with regard to dispute resolution. Ken advises the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), a public advocacy organisation affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which campaigns around the world for balanced justice systems from the perspective of those with experience of the US class action system. Ken will offer some practical insights and compare UK developments regarding class actions and funding with similar developments in other jurisdictions.
Following short presentations, Lord Thomas will moderate a panel discussion and invite questions and comments from the audience.