CLASS actions, which began in Australia in the 1990s, allow individual plaintiffs claiming similar damages to litigate collectively, providing access to the courts in a way that everyday people could rarely afford.
The sector's success has led corporate targets of the often expensive payouts to complain, and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg - citing concerns for plaintiffs - says litigation funders will be monitored by ASIC from August 22. A parliamentary report on class action funding and regulation is due in December.
In the Williamtown, Oakey and Tindal RAAF bases PFAS class action, costs will take $86 million of the $212.5 million accepted as settlement from the Commonwealth.
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Like almost all such actions, the PFAS Federal Court case did not go to trial.
Following their lawyers' advice, the plaintiffs' steering committee accepted the money on the table, implicitly accepting a bird in the hand over two in the bush.
By doing so, the class action participants can lodge no further claims for property damage.
"Personal injury" - or health claims - can still be pursued, however.
The Commonwealth makes "no admission of liability" in relation to "any of the allegations" made against it.
Red zone residents who did not take part in the class action can still sue individually.
After costs, the Williamtown pay-outs will average about $100,000, depending on the severity of contamination.
Litigation funders are currently exempt from holding an Australian Financial Services LIcence . . . as a result, litigation funders do not face the same regulatory scrutiny and accountability as other financial services and products under the Corporations ActTreasurer Josh Frydenberg on May 22 announcing regulatory changes
The meagre return has split the group, with some arguing the case should have gone to trial, given the strength of the evidence.
This view will gain even more strength, in hindsight, should an individual case against the Commonwealth go to trial and succeed.
For better or worse, however, the offer has been accepted, even though it was less than many had expected, and the hundreds of affected families must now get on with their lives as best as they can.
Regardless of whether the class action is regarded as a success, a failure, or somewhere in between, the big PFAS questions remain.
For those who have lived for years with exposure to PFAS, the science surrounding its health impacts is far from settled.
And despite a clean-up of the RAAF base and some of the surrounding waterways, the affected properties are still contaminated with PFAS, and may be so for decades, or perhaps centuries, to come.
The fight, therefore, will continue.
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