Class actions soar as Aussie settlements reach $1bn

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Australian class actions have reached an all-time high, according a report released by King & Wood Mallesons.

The number of class actions has been steadily growing over the past 15 years, but took a leap last financial year with 33 new class actions launched in FY15, compared with 17 the previous year, KWM’s The Review: Class Actions in Australia 2014/2015 found.

“The class action mechanism is really a standard part of the litigation tool kit now and can be taken advantage of,” said KWM partner and report co-author, Peta Stevenson.

“We are now seeing more law firms and more litigation funders active in the litigation space in Australia.”

While the amount in settlements seems like a big jump, $800m worth of settlements were attributed to natural disaster settlements following the Black Saturday class actions.  Stevenson said the increase is not all that surprising and strong growth is expected to continue into next financial year.

“It’s something that we would expect to see in a legal market that is maturing like the Australian legal market so not surprising in that sense. 

“It certainly doesn’t look like its slowing.  There are at least 27 actions that we know of under investigation during the period.

“In the period since then, we have already seen another five class actions actually be filled.  We are expecting the year ahead to be another busy one.”

Following general economic trends, claims seem to have moved away from the construction space and into mining and resources, the range of claims broadening.

“We’re continuing to see in the securities space, things across the board but the things we have noticed most recently is that things have moved away from construction companies which was probably where we were in the early 2000s,” said Stevenson.

“And we’re seeing a growth more, and it really does reflect global economic conditions towards mining and mining services companies receiving actions, as they are unable to meet either production or general profit forecasts.”

The report was co-authored by King & Wood Mallesons partners Peta Stevenson and Moira Saville.

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