Consumer Action Law Centre welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s Consultation Paper on Litigation Funding and Group Proceedings.
This is an important and broad review that presents a real opportunity to enhance access to justice in Victoria. We welcome the focus of the Commission’s inquiry, that is, to ensure that litigants are not exposed to unfair risks or disproportionate cost burdens when using services of litigation funders or when participating in class actions.
This submission argues that:
- class actions play an important role in facilitating access to justice, and regulatory arrangements should facilitate such actions proceeding;
- the restriction on lawyers charging contingency fees should be removed;
- robust court oversight is important to protect litigants at certain process steps (for example, processes to ‘close’ the class) as well as settlement and distribution, but there should not be upfront barriers to initiating class actions such as class certification;
- litigation funding plays an important role in supporting class actions, but measures should be adopted to manage conflicts of interest and encourage funders to adopt common fund class action models; and
- the Commission should re-visit its previous consideration and support for a judicial power to allow a court to order cy près or public interest distributions of unclaimed damages in class actions. The Commission’s recommendation was not adopted by the Victorian Government following the 2008 Civil Justice Review, however there are sound public policy reasons for such a power.
171004 VLRC Inquiry on Litigation Funding and Group Proceedings