England’s Mrs Justice Rose: A Judicial Heroine

02nd Dec 2015

By Scévole de Cazotte

If a hero – or heroine – is someone who delivers justice swiftly and with a clear message, then the UK has a new judicial superhero.

London High Court judge Mrs Justice Vivien Judith Rose recently tossed a massive and baseless lawsuit right where it needed to go – out of the UK’s courts.

A clever U.S. law firm known for huge, global class-action litigation cases (and profits) apparently didn’t anticipate running up against the judicial excellence and common sense of Mrs Justice Rose.

The firm Hausfeld LLP had spent considerable effort identifying and working with an organization in China that was willing to put well over 60,000 names of Chinese businesses on paper for a lawsuit involving freight pricing against airlines (including British Airways) that was utterly non-germane to most of the businesses.

When Mrs Justice Rose looked at evidence that only 5,277 of the total 64,697 claimants even used air freight for their business, she declared Hausfeld “wholly irresponsible” in launching the claims. In her ruling, Mrs Justice Rose was highly critical of the “very extensive programme” Hausfeld engaged in when gathering thousands of claimants to swell the claim, rather than simply putting together a small group with a legitimate claim.

Mrs Justice Rose’s final judgment was appropriately damning: “After more than two years’ work they have not in fact gathered a litigation group together at all,” she wrote. To allow the claim to proceed any further would be “manifestly unfair to the airlines and bring the administration of justice into disrepute.”

That thousands of companies found themselves embroiled in litigation of which they had little or no knowledge is particularly revealing. In this instance Hausfeld was sternly rebuked by a heroine of the justice system, but the case illustrates very well that the opportunity to pursue group and class actions creates incentives which leave the justice system wide open to abuse.

Mrs Justice Rose, and others within the UK’s judicial system, must remain vigilant and continue to defend the interests of justice.

Scévole de Cazotte is Vice President of International Initiatives, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform.

A copy of the Court’s ruling can be found here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2015/3071.html