Collective lawsuit, new procedural tool

Collective lawsuits are more of an “invention” created by English courts, as “an exception to the common rule that litigation is conducted only by and on behalf of individually named parties”. Although collective lawsuits have long been prominent in the Anglo-Saxon system, many people are surprised to learn that such actions have been part of the legal system for hundreds of years.

While many group actions involve relatively minor disagreements, some cases have had significant impacts on law and society, e.g. in the United States, “Scopes Monkey Trial” was undoubtedly the first lawsuit of collective action that received wide media attention (and eventually became the subject of numerous performances and stage films). It began as a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union against a Tennessee state law passed in 1925 that essentially barred public school teachers from presenting Darwin’s theory of evolution.

In this context, significantly shifted in time, comes the legal initiative to review and approve such an instrument in the Albanian legal system. Draft Law on Collective Lawsuits, submitted to the Assembly of the Republic of Albania, comes as a legislative initiative of an MP. As such, it is to be welcomed, as a positive move in the context of changing a consolidated tradition where quantitatively most of the legislation is proposed by the Council of Ministers. Collective lawsuits will be a new procedural tool that will ensure the collective protection of consumers and other groups in court instances, including collective redress.

This draft law aims to facilitate access to justice, prevention of illegal conduct and the possibility of compensation in case of violations of civil and economic rights as well as violations of labor relations. Thus, the aim is to protect consumers, employees or other groups with common interests, for which individual protection is not effective. The positive aspect of this draft law is the avoidance of adjudicating multiple individual lawsuits for the same case of collective damages in a single collective proceeding, thus preserving the judicial economy.

Legal systems have implemented this legal instrument in various ways in their domestic legislation. Based on the procedural legal framework in Albania, the most appropriate way is to adopt a special law on collective lawsuits, rather than implementing these provisions in the Code of Civil Procedure.

The collective lawsuit can be filed by: some members of an injured group; their representative, the Prosecutor or the Non-Profit Organizations (NGOs) which have as their object of activity the protection of the rights that may have been violated to a certain group.

The decision on the collective lawsuit will produce consequences only on the individuals who are involved in the collective procedure. But, the draft law also provides for the exclusion mechanism, according to which all members of a group who have suffered collective harm, are a priori participants in a collective procedure initiated, despite their passivity for involvement in this procedure. In this case, individuals of a certain group can be excluded from the consequences of a decision on a collective lawsuit, only in cases when they expressly request it before the court, in the form prescribed by the draft law.

Also, the collective solution is foreseen, which is a joint agreement between the injured group and the enterprise that has caused the collective damage, which regulates the manner in which the injured group will be compensated by the enterprise, the amount of compensation and the persons who will benefit. This procedural tool avoids the lengths required by the review of a collective lawsuit.

Another innovation is the involvement of a notary public in the procedure of execution of a final court decision. It is envisaged that the full amount of compensation awarded by the court be transferred to the notary in a special account. Then, the notary distributes the compensation measures to each member of the group that is legitimized to receive compensation, according to the requirements provided in the draft law.

For more information about this bill, find the relevant link below: