The problem of competing class actions

  • The Getswift shareholder class action signals a possible new approach by the court to the important problem of dealing with multiple, competing class actions.
  • The approach in Getswift does not prevent group members from opting out of the class action and creating a multiplicity of proceedings.
  • To truly solve the problem of competing class actions a statutory solution may be required.

Businessman stopping two dropping gavels

Competing class actions are problematic as they make the class action process less efficient through duplicating tasks and costs. The Federal Court’s decision in the Getswift shareholder class action signals a possible new approach by the court to the important problem of dealing with multiple, competing class actions. In that case, Justice Lee stayed two of the class actions and allowed the third to continue.1

Background

Two class actions were commenced against GetSwift: one represented by McTaggart and the other by Perera. The Perera class action comprised 103 class members, while the McTaggart action comprised 441. The class members in both proceedings had entered into funding agreements with different litigation funders. Justice Lee case managed the two actions jointly, and eventually permitted each applicant to file submissions as to why, if only one class action were to proceed, it should be their action. Before this issue was resolved, a prospective third applicant, Webb, intervened in the proceedings, and later filed a third class action against GetSwift. His Honour was content for each of the three applicants to make submissions on the way in which the court should proceed; the parties’ submissions were premised upon the high likelihood that the matter would settle.

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