Brits Fear a New U.S. Import - Class-Action Lawsuits

By Price, Marie | THE JOURNAL RECORD, November 1, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Brits Fear a New U.S. Import - Class-Action Lawsuits


Price, Marie, THE JOURNAL RECORD


They've accepted fast food and go gah-gah over U.S. celebrities, but the English apparently tremble in fear at another American import - the class-action lawsuit.

In a survey just released by the international law firm Bryan Cave, 59 percent of respondents expect "collective litigation" to surface in the UK over the next three years.

Almost half anticipate that their countries' courts will expand judicial access to class-action plaintiffs, with the main push coming from consumer groups.

However, 87 percent expect European court awards to be less than those in the states.

About 43 percent foresee introduction of contingency legal fees as a percentage of court judgments.

Lawrence Scarborough, a Bryan Cave partner, said there is a growing appetite among European consumers for redress of problems.

"What we didn't know is whether corporate Europe is aware of this significant shift and how it might affect their operations," Scarborough said. "The results of this research paint a sobering picture for European companies, especially in the UK."

He said the survey results should put companies on their toes.

"Businesses that have not examined their contingency plans for such legal action could be placing themselves at great risk, especially as plaintiffs' lawyers are getting better at deploying evidence across jurisdictions," Scarborough said.

Some companies have taken steps to cut down potential litigation risks, including developing customer-complaint monitoring systems (38 percent), updating safety-rules training (36 percent), seeking settlement of potentially costly claims (33 percent), and making sure insurance policies cover class actions (29 percent), among other actions.

The survey of more than 240 company executives and lawyers was conducted in September by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a London- based research and consulting firm.

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