Developing a structure for the adjudication of class actions in South Africa

Broodryk, Theo (2017-12)

Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Law. Department of Private Law

Thesis (LLD)--Stellenbosch University, 2017

ENGLISH ABSTRACT : This dissertation is concerned with class actions within the context of South African civil procedural law. There is currently no South African statute or court rule that provides a procedural framework for the institution and regulation of class actions. Our courts have been required to develop the appropriate class action procedural rules using their inherent jurisdiction as entrenched in section 173 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. This was done in Trustees for the time being of the Children’s Resource Centre Trust v Pioneer Food (Pty) Ltd (Legal Resources Centre as amicus curiae) 2013 1 All SA 648 (SCA), which effectively details key aspects of the law relating to class actions in South Africa. However, various ambiguities, inconsistencies and problems remain. In this regard, South African case law on class action procedure has not yet been subjected to a comprehensive and critical analysis in order to provide answers to a number of vital questions. These include the following: i) when is a class action, as opposed to joinder, the appropriate procedural device to beutilised to adjudicate a claim and when is it appropriate to use the opt-in, as opposedto the opt-out, class action regime? , ii) when, if ever, should notice of a class action be given to class members and whenwould individual notice to each class member be required, or would some form ofgeneral notice to the class suffice?; iii) what is the approach that our courts should follow and what are the devices that theycould utilise to determine damages in personal injury class actions?; and, iv) how should a class action be managed and what should the role of the courts be inthis regard? Ultimately, the purpose of the dissertation is to assist in developing a structure that could facilitate the adjudication of class actions in South Africa. This inevitably entails interpreting the South African class action procedure as expounded by our courts and, given the novelty of the procedure, constantly seeking guidance from the class action regimes of prominent foreign jurisdictions, most notably Australia, Ontario and the United States.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Die verhandeling bespreek groepsgedinge in die konteks van die Suid-Afrikaanse siviele prosesreg. Daar bestaan tans geen Suid-Afrikaanse wetgewing of hofreëls wat voorsiening maak vir 'n prosedure wat die instel en regulering van groepsgedinge aanspreek nie. Die verantwoordelikheid om toepaslike prosedurele reëls te ontwikkel ten einde effek te gee aan groepsgedinge berus, in wese, tans by die howe op grond van hul inherente jurisdiksie, soos vervat in artikel 173 van die Grondwet van die Republiek van Suid Afrika, 1996. Hierdie verantwoordelikheid is deels nagekom in Trustees for the time being of the Children’s Resource Centre Trust v Pioneer Food (Pty) Ltd (Legal Resources Centre as amicus curiae) 2013 1 All SA 648 (SCA), wat sleutelaspekte van die Suid-Afrikaanse reg rakende groepsgedinge uiteensit. Oorblywende dubbelsinnighede, inkonsekwenthede en probleme is egter steeds nie aangespreek nie. Kortom, Suid Afrikaanse regspraak oor groepsgedinge is nog nie onderworpe gestel aan 'n omvattende en kritiese ontleding ten einde antwoorde te vind ten opsigte van 'n aantal sleutelvrae nie. Hierdie vrae sluit die volgende in: i) wanneer is 'n groepsgeding, in plaas van voeging, die toepaslike prosedurele meganisme om eise te bereg en wanneer is dit toepaslik om die intree, eerder as die uittree, groepsgeding-prosedure te gebruik?; ii) wanneer, indien ooit, moet kennis van 'n groepsgeding aan groepslede gegee word en wanneer word individuele kennisgewing aan elke groepslid vereis, of onder watter omstandighede sal algemene kennis aan die klas as 'n geheel voldoende wees?; iii) wat is die benadering wat ons howe behoort te volg en wat is die meganismes wat aangewend kan word om skadevergoeding te bepaal in geval van persoonlike besering groepsgedinge?; iv) hoe moet 'n groepsgeding bestuur word en wat behoort die howe se rol te wees in hierdie verband? In hoofsaak is die doel van die verhandeling om by te dra tot die ontwikkeling van 'n struktuur wat die beregtiging van groepsgedinge in Suid-Afrika kan fasiliteer. Dit behels onvermydelik dat die Suid-Afrikaanse groepsgeding-prosedure, soos uiteengesit deur ons howe, geïnterpreteer word en, gegewe die nuutheid van die prosedure, om deurlopend te steun op die groepsgeding-stelsels van prominente buitelandse jurisdiksies, veral die van Australië, Ontario en die Verenigde State van Amerika.

Thesis

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