On 23 December 2015 class action law firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers announced their bid to facilitate a shareholder class action against their biggest class action competitor; Slater and Gordon.
Some commentators are calling the announcement an attempt at shaking down class action specialist Slater and Gordon’s reputation, but it’s hard not to question the 90% loss in the value of Slater and Gordon shares between April and December of 2015. This steep decline followed Slater and Gordon’s acquisition of the UK Professional Services Division of Quindell PLC for approximately A$1.3 billion in April 2015.
Despite Maurice Blackburn’s announcement of a class action law firm suing another class action law firm via class action seeming more ironic than a black fly in your chardonnay, shareholder class actions are not uncommon, particularly in litigation favouring legal systems such as that in the United States. However, in Queensland, class actions may feel like rain on your wedding day given the restrictive class action regime currently employed at the State level.
Class actions are one of the greatest mechanisms at a court’s disposal in a justice system. The procedure allows for a mass solution for a great number of people who have been wronged on a grand scale. Class actions carry the virtue of efficiency; lowering the number of cases clogging the judicial system, making the cost of initiating a claim significantly less costly on an individual basis, giving access to legal representation to the masses and providing an economically just solution.
However, Queensland currently employs a ‘representative actions’ regime which, though similar to a class action, only allows plaintiffs with the ‘same interest’ rather than an interest which arises out of the same, similar or related circumstances to bring a group action against a defendant.
Some say that the myths and hysteria surround class actions, such as the classic ‘floodgates’ argument and crazy settlement figures, is what is keeping Queensland from progressing legislation in the class actions arena. In our view, presenting further utility of access to Justice by the community through the Courts cannot be a bad thing if managed properly.
Maurice Blackburn’s proposed class action against Slater and Gordon is currently only a call to arms; they must find enough shareholders and a sufficient claim before they can begin legal proceedings . Or perhaps it is even a PR exercise… Who knows… but is certainly entertaining to see a class action law firm suing the largest class action law firm in the country via class action. Yep, it is ironic!
Article Written By: Tegan Childs