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Access to justice will be expanded by introduction of group costs orders, says LIV

Access to justice will be expanded by introduction of group costs orders, says LIV

By LIV Media

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Enabling the Supreme Court to make group costs orders in class actions will increase access to justice, according to the Law Institute of Victoria.

LIV president Stuart Webb said in class actions in which a group costs order is made by the Supreme Court, plaintiff lawyers will receive a percentage of the amount recovered for their costs, as determined by the Court, and all class members will share liability for those costs.

Under a group costs order, plaintiff lawyers would be required to indemnify the lead plaintiff in class actions for any adverse costs orders or orders to provide security for costs. Shifting the burden of cost risk from the representative (or lead) plaintiff to the plaintiffs’ lawyers in this way would remove the risk of the lead plaintiff being held personally liable for the defendant’s costs in the event that an adverse costs order is made.

Mr Webb said the LIV welcomed the Justice Legislation Miscellaneous Amendments Bill 2019 which will go some way to increasing access to justice by addressing the significant cost risks to plaintiffs involved in class action proceedings in Victoria.

“Enabling the Supreme Court to make group costs orders in class actions will mean that plaintiffs will bear a lower costs risk burden, and may facilitate the bringing of meritorious class actions which might not otherwise have been brought in the face of higher costs risks,” Mr Webb said.

Group costs orders are an important initiative which enable the Court to address some of the significant costs risks which impede access to justice. Further, the LIV has long supported removing the ban on contingency fees as part of a competitive legal environment where consumers are provided with a choice of legal cost options to suit their particular circumstances.

Mr Webb said that the advantages of contingency fees were they:

  • Share the risk of litigation between the law practice and the clients
  • Facilitate access to justice enabling meritorious matters that are not able to be funded by the client alone to be funded under a contingency fee arrangement
  • Provide value-based billing to clients as costs are aligned to outcomes rather than the hours spent working on the matter
  • Provide clients clarity about the legal costs which they will be liable to pay.

Mr Webb said that the legislation to enable group costs orders in class actions will ensure that the burden of class action costs is just and fair.


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