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Class Actions

Class Actions Advocates

What is a Class Action?

Essentially, “class action” is the name given to legal proceedings where a representative brings those proceedings on behalf of a group of persons who have authorised the representative to act on their behalf. It is the element of authority that distinguishes class actions from actions jointly brought by multiple plaintiffs. In order to qualify (be certified) as a class, the relief claimed, and issues involved must be substantially similar in respect of all members of the class.

Express provision is made for class actions in section 38(c) of the Constitution which provides that: “Anyone listed in this section has the right to approach a competent court, alleging that a right in the Bill of Rights has been infringed or threatened, and the court may grant appropriate relief, including a declaration of rights. The persons who may approach a court are: “. . . Anyone acting as a member of, or in the interest of, a group or class of persons”.

The use of the procedure has gained prominence over recent years due to high profile cases such as the listeriosis and silicosis class actions. The procedure can be used when it is alleged that a right in the Bill of Rights has been infringed or threatened. This can include situations where (because of scale) a class action is the only practicable procedure to give effect to the right of access to courts