The Multi-Party Actions Bill 2017 (the "2017 Bill") was introduced on 9 November 2017 with the aim of reducing the cost of litigation, providing greater access to the courts and allowing the resources of the Courts to be put to better use.
The 2017 Bill was a direct response to the recent tracker mortgage scandal but has implications far beyond this with the possibility, if enacted, of transforming the way medical negligence cases are currently litigated.
Multi-party actions, also known as class action law suits, are not currently an option under Ireland's legal system. The legislation, if passed, would allow for an individual plaintiff who shares common issues as to law or fact with a larger group to litigate the action on behalf of a larger group.
The 2017 Bill sets out the procedure of proposed multi-party actions and relies heavily on the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission's Paper on the subject in this regard.
Mechanics of the 2017 Bill
Under the 2017 Bill, a potential litigant must first identify whether there already exists a previously certified multi-party action relevant to their application which will be facilitated through consultation with the Courts Service. If no such multi-party action exists then the litigant may bring a motion seeking certification before the President of the High Court and the President of the High Court will then nominate a judge to deal with the certification and all subsequent matters arising in the multi-party action.
The nominated judge, in light of the common or related issues of fact or law arising, will have regard to the following in deciding whether to certify proceedings:
Whether there are or is likely to be multiple cases giving rise to multi-party action issues; and Whether a multi-party action offers an appropriate, fair and efficient procedure for the resolution of multi-party actions. Where a multi-party action is ultimately certified the court will issue a multi-party order which will:
Establish a register where all the parties involved are recorded; Specify the multi-party issues which are likely to arise; Specify the criteria for entry onto the register; and Specify an expiry date for entry onto the register. This order may include directions on the publication of the multi-party action, the referral of relevant cases to the judge for determination and may also specify that after a certain date no party may be removed from the register without the...