The recent tracker mortgage scandal has focused the Irish Government's attention on the status of class actions in Ireland. In November 2017, two Sinn Féin TDs introduced the Multi-Party Actions Bill 2017 (Bill) in an attempt to change how the courts deal with cases where large categories of people are affected by common issues of fact or law. The Bill aims to reduce the costs of litigation, make better use of court resources and improve access to the courts in these cases. The Bill sets out the procedure for bringing a multi-party action and includes many of the recommendations made in the 2005 Law Reform Commission Paper on multi-party litigation.
What is a multi-party action?
Proceedings already issued, which involve a number of parties, whether as plaintiffs or defendants and which have common or related issues of fact or law, can be certified as a multi-party action and proceed in accordance with the proposed legislation.
Before applying for certification, the multi-party action applicant must check with the Irish Courts Service whether an applicable multi-party action has already been certified. If not then the applicant can bring a motion for certification to the President of the High Court. The President will nominate a judge to deal with the application and if the proceedings are certified, that judge will preside over the multi-party action that follows.
When deciding whether proceedings should be certified, the nominated judge will consider, in light of the common issues of law or fact, whether:
there are, or are likely to be, a number of cases giving rise to the multi-party issues the procedure is appropriate, fair and efficient for the resolution of the multi-party issues If certified, the nominated judge will make a multi-party action order which will:
establish a register onto which the parties involved can be entered specify the multi-party issues specify the criteria for entry onto the register specify a cut-off date for entry onto the register The Order may also include directions on the publication of the multi-party action, the referral of relevant cases to the judge for determination, and the removal of a case from the register.
Running the multi-action litigation
To join the register, a party must first issue proceedings and then make an application to the nominated judge. Once the date for joining the register has expired, the different parties have to try and nominate a lead solicitor. There can be...