As of 1 March 2017, it is now possible for the first time to bring a class action in the Supreme Court of Queensland.
The legislation bringing in this change was proclaimed by the Queensland Governor on 24 February 2017 after first being passed by Parliament in November 2016.
The Queensland legislation has adopted the regimes already in place in the Federal Court and the New South Wales and Victorian Supreme Courts, meaning that decisions in these jurisdictions will be useful in interpreting any issues which may arise out of the Queensland scheme.
The key features of the Queensland “representative proceeding” regime, as set out in Part 13A of the Civil Proceedings Act 2011, include that:
- there must be at least seven members of the ‘group’ for a proceeding to be commenced
- the action is brought be a single representative on behalf of all members of the group
- the claim must arise out of similar circumstances and raise a substantial common issue of law of fact and
- consent of a person to be a group member is not required, however, all members of the group must be notified of the action and their right to opt-out of the group (by a set date) should they not wish to be bound by the judgement or settlement.
Interestingly, a representative proceeding may be started in the Supreme Court now even if the cause of action arose before 1 March 2017. However, class actions already on foot in other jurisdictions (such as the action arising out of the 2011 Queensland floods currently in the New South Wales Supreme Court) will not be able to be transferred to Queensland.
This change will make it considerably easier for classes to bring actions arising out of negligence in Queensland. Changes to facilitate the new regime have already been made to the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules, and we expect it will not be long before a practice note setting out the rules for the conduct of these matters will be handed down giving everyone a better idea as to how such matters will be run.