Title of research: Entrepreneurial Mass Litigation – Balancing the building blocks
Promotors: Prof. S.D. Lindenbergh and Prof. W.H. van Boom
Mass litigation is a relatively new phenomenon in Europe, yet gradually developing into a key area of civil law. This is incited by the impact on society that mass harm might have; think Volkswagen, Fortis, or Shell. The past decades have shown an increasing expansion of, inter alia, litigation mechanisms to address various types of mass harm. Such private enforcement mechanisms are designed to efficiently compensate victims and/or deter future wrongdoers. Examples are the recently implemented collective proceedings in England and Wales, and the proposed collective action for damages in both Germany and the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, commerce-driven parties are mushrooming, incentivised by the potential large earnings that mass litigation provides. Law firms, claim organizations and third-party litigation funders increasingly engage in the already existing mechanisms and explore hidden or new pathways. Regardless of the type, their mere presence adds another key actor to the litigation, who is or might be pursuing his own commercial interest. They can be involved in the search for potential claims, screening of cases, litigation strategies and decision-making, and possibly initiate mass litigation themselves. This innovation in civil law is two-faced. Entrepreneurial mass litigation has the potential to stimulate and improve access to justice and private enforcement, but also to fuel a compensation culture and encourage abusive behaviour.
This PhD project explores the relevant conditions for assessing the likelihood of entrepreneurship contributing to the chosen objectives of mass litigation, by way of a theoretical and comparative legal study on entrepreneurial mass litigation in England & Wales, Germany and the Netherlands.