Why class action lawsuits don't get that far in SA

Ride-hailing service Uber faces a class action lawsuit following a number of high-profile incidents involving the platform.

Criminal defence attorney Ulrich Roux is representing 11 Uber victims who were either robbed, raped and attacked while using the service in South Africa.

But how likely is the lawsuit to succeed? Law expert Dr Theo Broodryk says the class action is not the appropriate legal mechanism in this case.

Read: Commuters file a class action lawsuit against e-hailing service Uber

Broodryk says that class actions suits are relatively novel in SA, with no completed trials to date because of settlements.

Before a class action lawsuit can proceed, the class must be certified, which creates two stages of the procedure.

A class action is divided into two phases. To date, there's been no completed class action litigated in South Africa.

Dr Theo Broodryk, Senior Lecturer - Stellenbosch University Faculty Of Law

Many class action lawsuits are settled out of court after the case has been certified and given the go-ahead, Broodryk explains. Therefore, most cases never make it to trial.

Almost 90% of class actions settle after they have been certified.

Dr Theo Broodryk, Senior Lecturer - Stellenbosch University Faculty Of Law

There has been an abuse of the mechanism. There are class action law firms who specialise in this field because they know that it's very likely to settle after they get the class action certified.

Dr Theo Broodryk, Senior Lecturer - Stellenbosch University Faculty Of Law

Also read: Uber SA says insurance cover is in place, but consumers tell a different story

He also argues that the absence of scrutiny or legal framework has hindered the advancement of class action proceedings.

The problem in SA is that we don't have a single piece of legislation or a court rule that regulates class actions. So we rely exclusively on the courts to tell us what the process is.

Dr Theo Broodryk, Senior Lecturer - Stellenbosch University Faculty Of Law

Listen to the expert discussion on The John Maytham Show:


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