Group litigation

If a number of people have similar claims on the same grounds against the same party, the claims can be grouped into the same case. In such instances, this is referred to as Group Litigation.

Group Litigation can provide a simpler way of trying a case when there are multiple parties affected. To follow is an overview of the rules. See also section 35 of the Dispute Act at lovdata.no.

What is Group Litigation?

The scope of a case must be in relation to the value of the dispute it concerns. That means avoiding dedicating an unreasonable amount of resources to legal action if the value of the dispute concerned is low. When multiple parties join forces on the same claim, the value of the case can be multiplied many times, even if the individual value of each claim is low. For example: hundreds of people take legal action together as the result of an allegedly harmful product, even if the claim is only one thousand kroner per person. Group Litigation does not apply to small claims. It can also be used when the value of individual claims is higher if there are many people in the same situation.

Low risk for the individual

It should be easy for individuals to join group litigation cases. In addition, the costs and cost risk (if the case is lost) for individuals will be limited and foreseeable. Relatively little effort and participation from the individual are needed.

The terms of Group Litigation

These are the terms for Group Litigation:

  • All claims can only be heard by the court with the same composition and broadly the same case rules.

  • Group proceedings have to be the best method of handling the case.

  • There must be grounds for designating a group representative.How to proceed

Group Litigation can be brought by anyone fulfilling the terms for being a group member if the case is to be proceeded with. Group Litigation can also be brought by associations, institutions or public bodies representing special interests. In such instances, the case must fall within their objectives and natural scope of activities.

An indictment can be filed for the local District Court where a group member could normally bring legal proceedings. If an association, institution or public body seeks Group Litigation, it can be brought before the District Court for the district where they have their registered office. Group Litigation does not have to go before the Conciliation Board.

The group’s rights and duties are handled by a group representative appointed by the court. He or she does not have to be the same person filing for the indictment. Organisations can also be appointed as group representative. The group will usually also be represented by legal counsel in the form of a lawyer.

The court must decide whether a Group Litigation claim can be heard or rejected as soon as possible. Once approved, the court will seek to ensure that other possible members are made aware of the Group Litigation by notification, proclamation or other means.

Case costs

The group representative is responsible for case costs. Group members are only liable for the costs if stated accordingly as a condition of registration. If the person bringing the case or the group representative so require, the court can stipulate that a condition for registration is that group members must be liable for a predetermined maximum amount of the costs. It can also be decided that the amount can be paid in whole or part by the group’s legal counsel before registration.

Who can be a member?

The main rule is that Group Litigation only concerns those registered as group members. Each group member must also actively join the Group Litigation before the deadline set by the court. The court must also consider whether anyone joining has a claim that falls within the framework of the Group Litigation. As soon as an applicant is approved as a group member, their details must be entered in the group register maintained electronically by the court. The applicant will also be advised of the court’s decision on their application.

The court can also decide that anyone with a claim within the framework of the Group Litigation can be a group member without registration in the group register. The conditions for this are that the claims in the Group Litigation apply to such small values or interests that a significant majority of them cannot expect to benefit from individual legal proceedings. Furthermore, the claims cannot be expected to raise issues that require an individual response. Members can opt out of Group Litigation by contacting the court who will maintain a register of opted-out members.