26 + 27 June: Resolving Mass Disputes: ADR and Settlement of Mass Claims

Conference organised by Erasmus School of Law, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Date 26 and 27 June 2012

Location Senaatszaal and Q1-17, Erasmus University Rotterdam (Map)

No fee charged

More info on the website.

In June 2012, a conference will take place on the occasion of the inaugural lectures of professors Christopher Hodges and Astrid Stadler. This conference examines two emerging responses to mass issues that are currently confronting European member States.

The problem of how to respond to multiple small claims by consumers, which has challenged court systems in Europe, has found a possible solution in ‘Consumer Alternative Dispute Resolution’ (CADR). The first part of the conference presents research findings on how CADR systems operate in different member States, and on current European Commission legislative proposals to build national CADR systems that have full coverage for all types of consumer-to-business disputes, supported by an ODR (online dispute resolution) platform. CADR systems appear to offer a genuine alternative pathway for resolving small disputes, and raise questions of how they should be designed so as to provide feedback that can have regulatory function on traders’ behavior, and what, if any, residual role courts may play. Speakers include leading ombudsmen and experts.

Mass claims cases seldom proceed as far as a final court judgment. Even though the high number of claimants and the complexity of legal and factual issues make negotiations difficult, settlements are achieved very often. The Dutch Collective Mass Claims Settlement Act encourages out-of-court settlement by providing an opt-out court proceeding to declare settlements legally binding for all persons affected by mass damages and it turned out to be a very successful tool for handling large international securities cases and other mass claims. However, some important questions of international jurisdiction and recognition are still unsolved.

Mass settlements are a challenge for both, lawyers and courts. Existing group litigation acts in Europe require court approval of mass settlements following the US class action rules. This puts judges in a difficult position as legal regulations often provide only vague and abstract criteria to be applied. Courts must have information sufficient to consider the proposed settlement fairly. To what extent should the absent group members participate or comment the proposed settlement? In multinational mass claims, courts may have to compare the terms of the settlement with the potential outcome of litigation despite the fact that a multiplicity of substantive laws has to be applied.

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