Looking for a tight but informative summary of changes around the globe with respect to (1) aggregate or class action litigation, (2) contingent fees and litigation funding, and (3) exemplary or punitive damages? If so, you should read a new article, “Global Litigation Trends.” The authors are Mark Behrens, Gregory Fowler and Silvia Kim, who are all Shook Hardy lawyers. The article was published at 17 Michigan State Journal of International Law 166 (2008-09). You can download it here from the TortsProf blog.
I particularly liked the article because it packs a material amount of information into 30 pages. The first two sections provide an overview of particular developments in aggregate litigation/class actions and some nation by nation citations to articles on aggregate litigation. Those highlights are followed in section III by an incredibly handy reference tool that provides a country by country synopsis of the aggregate litigation procedures increasingly available in countries ranging from Argentina to Taiwan, followed by a brief section IV addressing EU law aggregate litigation developments. Section V addresses developments in paying for litigation. First covered are changes around the world with respect to contingency fees (they are permitted more places than you might think – for example, Italy recently passed legislation to permit contingent fees), as well as uplift fees, success fees and multipliers. The section also touches briefly on the rise of litigation funding outside the US. Global developments in punitive damages are covered in section VI. The article provides cogent cites to demonstrate that new attitudes are developing outside the US with respect to non compensatory damages.
As the name of this blog reflects, it seems plain enough to me that tort litigation is indeed going global, albeit with regional and national twists, not to to mention the intricacies of comparing civil law countries to common law countries, as well as developments in Asia where some countries have this century essentially embarked anew in their approach to courts and law because past law was feudal or otherwise outmoded. I was curious though to read the the concluding remarks of Mark and his colleagues since they (like me) are not academics and represent the defense side in most cases. Here’s what they had to say:
“A growing list of countries outside the United States, including Canada, Australia, most European, and several South American countries, now recognize some form of multiclaimant litigation– whether class actions, groups actions, or representative actions by consumer or public organizations. The trend, however, has been to reject wholesale adoption of U.S.-style class actions. What has emerged instead is a distinctly “un-American” approach that generally disfavors opt-out procedures and often allows public bodies and private consumer organizations to bring collective actions in addition to (and sometimes in place of) individuals. Foreign countries also have “not so far been inclined to change other rules that have helped make class action lawsuits practical in the United States.” In particular, there have not been widespread calls to do away with the loser-pays rule. Contingent fees and punitive damages remain generally prohibited, but changes are occurring in this area and past prohibitions are softening. The stepstaken so far in these two areas, in particular, have been incremental and modest–but a wall is built one brick at a time. If collective actions become more prevalent, and the foreign plaintiffs’ bar better funded and coordinated as a result, it would not be surprising to hear calls for broader and speedier reform.”