New amendments open floodgates for class action in Lithuania
From January 1, 2015 the amendments of the Civil Procedure Code regulating class action came into force. Prior to the amendments, class action was merely a theoretical possibility in Lithuania, while after January 1 clear guidelines regulating this institute took effect.
Conditions of class action
Not all the lawsuits where multiple claimants are involved are considered class action suits. According to the provisions of the Art. 4413, class action shall comply with the following conditions:
- There are at least 20 natural or legal persons (a group) which have suffered a common injury (injuries) of their rights and have expressed their will to file a lawsuit together;
- Legal or factual claims of the suit are common to the entire group;
- Class action will be more effective than numerous individual cases;
- The group has notified the defendant of the intention to file class action;
- The group shall have a representative which may be elected from the members of the group and act in the name of the group;
- The group shall also be represented by an attorney.
It shall be noted that according to the Art. 4412 of the Code, the representative of the group shall send a notification to the defendant prior to engaging in class action. In the notification claims of the group shall be indicated as well as the deadline to satisfy the claims. The deadline shall be at least 30 days. If the claims indicated in the notification are not satisfied within prescribed deadline, the group can file a class action suit in court.
Group and representative
Unlike class actions in the United States, in Lithuania this type of lawsuit only applies to the parties who have already filed the lawsuit. The provisions of Civil Procedure Code do not allow a suit to be brought in the name of an unknown group of claimants. The list of claimants (members of the group) shall be attached to class action suit. Members can be added to the group within 60 to 90 days after class action suit was accepted by court. Each claimant shall sign a consent form in order to be included in class action. Group members cannot lead the case individually, except individual pecuniary claims.
In order to make litigation more effective, a group shall be represented by a representative. The representative shall be a natural person which is interested in the outcome of the case or an association (trade union). In case where the group is represented by an association (trade union), the claims provided in class action suit shall be directly related with the goals or activities of such association (trade union). E.g. an association responsible for consumer right protection can represent a group of consumers.
Certifying class action
When class action suit is filed, the court shall certify the suit, meaning that the court shall verify whether the suit complies with of class action. In the resolution to certify the suit, court verify the following circumstances:
- Whether all claimants can be members of the group, in other words, whether legal and factual claims of each individual case are common to the group;
- Whether class action will be more effective than individual cases; the court shall take into consideration the nature of violated rights and interests, the members of the group, relation between claims of the group and individual pecuniary claims and etc.;
- Whether the representative of the group is eligible for this function; the court shall take into consideration reputation, honesty, competence of the representative, his/hers experience in other class action suits, his/hers procedural behaviour, possible interest conflict.
The court resolution can be appealed.
State and litigation fees
The state fee for non-pecuniary class action suit is 145 EUR. This fee shall be divided in equal parts among all the members of the group. If individual pecuniary claims are submitted in the class action, the state fee calculated following the rules of ordinary pecuniary lawsuit provided in the Civil Procedure Coder. The state fee shall be divided among all members of the group in proportion to the amount of their individual pecuniary claims. The state fee shall be paid by the representative of the group. Group members shall reimburse the representative according to calculations provided. Each member shall cover litigation fees proportional to his/hers pecuniary claims. If a group member opts out of class action, such member shall only cover litigation fees for procedural actions performed until his/hers decision to opt out.
Jovita Valatkaite, attorney at law of the Gencs Valters Law Firm in Vilnius
Practising in fields of Dispute Resolution in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia
T: +370 52 61 10 00
F: +370 52 61 11 00