CD: Could you provide an overview of the pace of class action product liability cases in your jurisdiction over the past 12 to 18 months?

Maher: Product liability claims dominated the Australian class action landscape in the 1990s and early 2000s. The prevalence of product liability claims has decreased over the last decade, with an increase in investor-related, shareholder and consumer protection class actions in Australia. Nevertheless, class actions continue to be brought in Australia, in both the Federal court and some state Supreme courts, in relation to defective products on a regular basis. It remains one of the most common types of class action claims – around 20 percent of all class actions in Australia have been product liability related. Over the past 12 to 18 months, we have seen actions commenced against Reckitt Benckiser, the manufacturer of Nurofen painkiller tablets, in relation to alleged misleading and deceptive representations made about a particular range of tablets, an action commenced against the Ford Motor Company alleging defective Powershift transmission in certain Ford vehicle models and an action commenced against a provider of breast augmentation surgery relating to alleged complications following surgery.

Fleming: Although certifying product liability class actions faces many hurdles, class action filings remain fairly common in the product liability space. In addition to class actions, we have seen trends toward the pursuit of other forms of aggregate litigation continue. For example, plaintiffs’ attorneys continue to pursue group remedies through mass actions, multi-plaintiff coordinated litigations, parens patriae actions by state and local governments on behalf of their citizens, and qui tam actions. On balance, based on our observations, there appears to be little evidence of abatement in the filing of large aggregate product liability litigations.

Jan-Mar 2018 issue

Bird & Bird

Kirkland & Ellis LLP

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP