A History of Class Actions: Modern Lessons From Deep Roots

AuthorMichael A Eizenga and Emrys Davis
Michael A Eizenga and Emrys Davis
Abstract: The authors trace the development of the class act ion
from its roots nearly 1,000 years ago to the liberally avai lable
class action device t hat exists today. The immediate precursor
of the modern clas s action is the representat ive action, which
was made available in t he common law courts following t he
fusion of Law and Equity i n 1873. The representative action
remained rest ricted in application with t he result that even-
tually legisl atures introduced cla ss procedures. However, the
authors argue that although t he use of the class action dev ice
has greatly e xpanded in the moder n era, this growt h has not
always been progres sive. Rather, its growth ha s been realize d
in “f‌its and start s,” as at various times, courts, leg islatures,
and enforcement agencies have contributed to the def‌i nition
of the scope and application of the cla ss action device. Class
actions are importa nt procedural tools that often en able in-
dividuals to ach ieve justice, however, the ongoing interplay
between the courts, leg islatures, and reg ulatory agencies also
has the potentia l to be a restraining inf‌luence, to ta me abuses,
and f‌inally, to def‌ine the scope of clas s actions in the most ef-
f‌icient and effective way for all involved.

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