The Rise of US-Style Class Actions in the UK and Europe

Class actions have been a feature of the litigation landscape in the USA for decades. Claimant-friendly procedures combined with an aggressive and well-funded plaintiffs' bar have created fertile ground for these large, long-running, and often high-profile cases. These trends are no longer confined to the USA. The growth of group litigation in the UK and Europe over recent years has been exponential, and its significance to businesses as a key corporate risk will only continue to increase. This growth is partly driven by a greater legislative and judicial openness to mass claims, including in particular the broader acceptance of so-called "opt out" mass claims, where claimants can bring a representative action on behalf of a "class" of potential claimants, without seeking the consent of all claimants. In parallel, the litigation funding market is booming in the UK and Europe. Funders and claimant law firms are working together to pursue novel claims that previously would not have been economically feasible. UK litigation funder assets have increased from just under £200 million in 2011 / 2012 to £2.2 billion in 2020 / 2021. The value of the litigation funding market in the EU was estimated to be €1 billion in 2019, with this projected to reach €1.6 billion in 2025. As a result, mass claims are now affecting almost every industry sector, and claimant law firms continue to develop innovative case theories to impose liability in new areas.

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