09
NOV
2015

What are Class Actions?

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It is common for a wrongdoing to affect a group of people. A class action is a claim made on behalf of this group by a legal representative, saving time and money.

Often class actions are made against multi-million dollar companies performing injustices such as discrimination, environmental disasters, false advertising, defective products, drugs with side effects, fraud or the distribution of unauthorised information.

Some class actions that you may have heard of include:

  • Malaysia Airlines MH17 Class Action
  • Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme Class Action
  • Royal Bank of Scotland Class Action
  • Gladstone Harbour Disaster Class Action
  • BP Oil Spill Class Action
  • Johnson & Johnson/Ethicon Mesh Class Action
  • Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

If you have seen the movie ‘Erin Brockovich’ based on the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) class action then you may know more about class actions than you think. Erin Brockovich was the lead plaintiff against PG&E in the 1993 case. A group of families in Hinkley, California claimed the company was aware of harmful chemicals leaking into the town’s water supply. As a result of being contaminated by Chromium (VI), residents suffered from cancers, fertility problems and other serious illnesses. The residents were paid US$333 million.

Class actions are often world changing. They are designed to make business run more ethically, enforce stricter corporate governance and hold those responsible for their wrongdoings. Class actions are an essential part of corporate and social responsibility.

In Australia, class actions should be conducted by a law firm, as law differs between state and territory. If the case is successful, the court will fairly divide the compensation amount between the group based on circumstances.

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