May 15, 2015 by Canadian Underwriter
Class action lawsuits were listed as the top litigation issue in global legal practice Norton Rose Fulbright’s 2015 Litigation Trends Annual Survey, which polled 803 participants working for companies headquartered in 26 countries worldwide, including Canada, the United States, Australia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Hong Kong.
“Survey respondents – primarily general counsel – indicated that the increasing number of class action lawsuits and a more litigious business environment were the most important issues impacting their companies,” Norton Rose Fulbright said in a statement on Thursday.
Generally speaking, a quarter of all respondents reported at least one call or group action against their companies in the preceding 12 months, with survey participants from the U.S. comprising 80% of that number. And 71% of those who reported a class action had more than one filed against their companies in the previous 12 months.
In Canada particularly, respondents reported far more labour/employment matters in the previous 12 months than the survey as a whole (49% to 37%), as well as higher numbers of company/commercial construction litigation (15% to 5% for the overall survey). But the number of product liability cases was much lower than the average (4% to 11%). [click image below to enlarge]
The survey noted that Canadian companies average about four disputes-focused lawyers, well below the total survey average of 16.3. Those small staff sizes are mirrored in Canada’s average litigation spend: 62% spend less than US$500,000 per year, among the smallest average budgets reported.
“Although the litigation climate is less aggressive in Canada than in some other regions we surveyed, there are still a number of issues that are important for general counsel,” said Roger Smith, Norton Rose Fulbright’s head of dispute resolution and litigation for Canada, in a statement. “For example, labor and employment law is complex and wide-ranging in Canada, and that is clearly reflected in the responses we received. And contract disputes are still a major issue for companies in Canada, as they are in many regions.” [click image below to enlarge]
The study also found that:
• Canadian companies were less concerned about regulatory/investigations and IP/patents than their peers in other countries;
• A total of 33% of Canadian respondents said regulatory proceedings had been initiated against their companies in the previous 12 months, similar to the overall survey at 34%; and
• In Canada, 41% of companies used alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) in the previous 12 months, below the survey average.
Norton Rose Fulbright’s 2015 Litigation Trends Annual Survey was conducted by Acritas, a global legal services market business research firm. The over 800 respondents were from a wide range of industry sectors, including financial institutions, energy, infrastructure, mining and commodities, transport, technology and innovation, and life sciences and healthcare.