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England & Wales: Group Actions

01 February 2023
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Summary of legal landscape in England & Wales in relation to group actions.

Group actions are on the increase in England in and Wales.

The recently introduced EU Representative Action Directive will not be implemented in the UK, as it came into force after the end of the Brexit transition period.

However, the UK has well established regimes for pursuing class actions, by way of group litigation orders in the High Court, or by way of collective actions.

In any event, it is likely that any increase in class action activity in the EU will encourage further collective actions in England and Wales.

An increase in the number of 'class action specialist' law firms, combined with access to third party funding, is likely to lead to a spike in class actions/group litigation in the UK.

Major class actions in England & Wales:

Grenfell Tower litigation

DWF are instructed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in the defence of civil claims arising from the tragedy on 14 June 2017.  Over 1,000 claimants, comprising members of the community and emergency responders, have brought claims for personal injury, loss and damage against 23 defendants. Proceedings have been issued in the high court, but in parallel, a number of the claimants have entered into an ADR process with a number of defendants.  This process is mediated by Lord Neuberger and Bill Marsh. The matter is ongoing.

British Airways
DWF are instructed on behalf of British Airways Plc in respect of a well-publicised cyber-attack and data theft concerning its website and mobile application which BA announced in September 2018, and which potentially affected several hundreds of thousands of individuals.

Specifically, we continue to represent BA in respect of the defence of all civil litigation arising from the cyber-attack in the English courts.  This culminated in a Group Litigation Order in the specialist Media and Communications list at the High Court in London in which a significant volume of claimants from multiple jurisdictions were seeking damages for alleged loss suffered as a result of the cyber-attack. The claim was the first data Class Action brought under GDPR and concerned many untested legal and procedural issues. The long-running Class Action, which involved all three of DWF's integrated legal and business services, was settled in summer 2021 without admission of liability. DWF continue to advise BA in respect of related matters.

WM Morrisons Supermarkets
DWF achieved a victory for WM Morrisons Supermarkets in a UK Supreme Court appeal relating to a class action brought by over 9,000 of the retailer’s employees. It was the first mass data breach claim of its kind before the Courts. The claim for direct fault-based liability was successfully defended at the original trial however, Morrisons was found liable for no-fault vicarious liability as employer. In Morrisons' successful appeal, the Supreme Court clarified how the law of vicarious liability should be applied and in so doing reversed the High Court and Court of Appeal decisions against Morrisons.

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Further Reading