Corrs Chambers Westgarth Symposium on Class Actions and Litigation Funding in Western Australia
IMF was delighted to participate in a symposium on 1 March 2018 to discuss class actions in Western Australia and third-party litigation funding. The symposium was organised by leading independent Australian law firm, Corrs Chambers Westgarth.
The symposium consisted of a panel discussion about issues confronting the various stakeholders in dealing with class actions. Corrs’ litigation partner Kirsty Sutherland moderated a distinguished panel: each brought the perspective of the different key stakeholders in the class action debate. The panel consisted of:
- The Hon Chief Justice Wayne Martin AC, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Western Australia
- The Hon John Quigley MLA JP, Attorney General of Western Australia
- Hugh McLernon, Executive Director of IMF Bentham Ltd
- André Louw, Chairman, Jardine Lloyd Thompson Australia
- Chris Pagent, Partner and Head of Class Actions Practice, Corrs Chambers Westgarth
- Neil Hamilton, Company Director
The Chief Justice opened the symposium with a thoughtful analysis of the various class action regimes across Australia and the trends that have emerged in the different jurisdictions. His Honour provided some examples where, despite not having a formal class action regime, the Supreme Court of Western Australia has been able to manage class actions involving closed classes under the current law using innovative case management techniques. The Chief Justice noted that such an approach may not be appropriate for open class matters, which would require some legislative reform.
In a spirited debate that was, at times, lively and frank, the panel traversed such diverse topics as the rise of class actions in Australia, the role that third-party funding has played in the development of class actions and the future trends in the class action space.
Making good on a promise made during the campaign for the last State election, the Attorney General announced that the Western Australian government would introduce legislation establishing a class action regime in Western Australia to the Parliament by the end of the year. Mr Quigley noted that the way that class action regimes have developed in Australia have resulted in a quasi-national law, and that given the nature of class actions, uniformity is desirable among the different jurisdictions.
Mr McLernon offered some insights into the issues that confront third-party funders dealing with class actions, such as the increasingly diverse types of class actions that are brought, the rise of common fund orders, dealing with insurers and the recent trend where defendant companies face more than one class action over the same issue. Mr McLernon predicted that, even with legislative reform, class action activity in Western Australia is likely to remain low as compared to other jurisdictions with more developed class action practices due to the established legal and judicial class action ‘infrastructure’ in those jurisdictions.
Mr Louw discussed the impact that class actions (particularly securities and investor class actions) have had on the Director & Officer insurance policy market within Australia, with claims made substantially exceeding the premium pool available to meet such claims.
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