What is the status of a group member?

In principle, group members do not participate actively in the proceedings. Their activity in the proceedings is actually limited to filing of the declaration on joining the group. A group member is not a claimant in procedural terms. Therefore, they are not a party to the group proceedings, with this provison however that a group (or subgroup) member in the group proceedings is heard not in the capacity of a witness, but of a party.

The Act provides for only a limited number of activities to be performed in group proceedings by group members themselves, which include:

  1. declaration on joining the group, including the specification of the group member’s demand, an indication of circumstances substantiating such a demand, as well as group membership, and presentation of evidence; the content of the declaration extends also to the consent to person of the group representative and consent to standardise the amount of a claim (in case of pursuing pecuniary claims); the declaration can be submitted to the group representative before commencement of the group proceedings, or later – until the lapse of the time limit for submitting such a declaration within the second phase of the proceedings. (see: What is the course of group proceedings?);
  2. declaration of leaving the group – the Act allows a group member who has previously filed a declaration on joining the group to resign from participation in the group proceedings, however, it sets a deadline for making such declaration; the declaration of leaving from a group can be lodged no later than by the date on which the decision on the composition of the group becomes final and binding (see: What is the course of group proceedings?); member’s declaration of leaving the group is ineffective if filed after the deadline, which means that the court will continue to treat such person as a group member (the court will examine their claim) and the final judgement in the case will bear effects also for such a person;
  3. request to change the representative – to be effective such a request shall be submitted by more than half of the group members, it should indicate the person of a new suggested representative and include their declaration of consent on assuming such a function  (see: Who is a “group representative”?);
  4. consent to withdraw an action, withdrawal or reduction of the claim, conclusion of a settlement – these dispositive actions of the claimant require a consent of more than half of the group’s members.

Despite not having a formal status of a party in a class action, a final judgement issued in the frames of these proceedings shall bear effects for all members of the group – it decides on their claims. In the operative part of the judgement (or on the list constituting an attachment to the judgement), the court indicates all members of the group and establishes the amount due to each of them (if it awards a cash performance pursued). In turn, when the court dismisses the statement of claims, and this judgment becomes final and valid, members of the group shall no longer be able to pursue in individual proceedings the same claims which were covered by the class action. This situation will result in the occurrence of the force of res iudicata, which has this result that another action concerning the same claims must be dismissed.

With respect to the status of the group member in enforcement proceedings – see: What is the course of group proceedings?