A group of more than 700 Kenyan tea farm workers has, this week, been permitted to raise group proceedings in the Court of Session against Finlays, a multi-national tea and coffee producer.

The workers claim to have been injured while employed in Kenya by James Finlay (Kenya) Ltd, a company which was incorporated in Scotland. In addition to arguing that the case ought to be heard in Kenya, Finlays asserted that the pursuers had not established that their cases involved sufficiently similar issues. However, Lord Weir has decided that, in principle and subject to clarification on the matter of a representative party, he is satisfied that the criteria for granting the application are met and that the claims should be allowed to proceed as a group in Scotland.

Raising Group Proceedings – what's involved

In order to raise group proceedings in Scotland, it is a requirement that the group of claims raises issues of fact or law that are the same as, or similar, or related to each other. It is necessary for the claimants to satisfy the court that:

  • there is a prima facie case
  • proceeding as a group will be more efficient than as separate claims; and
  • there is a real prospect of success.

It is also necessary for a representative party to be authorised to raise the proceedings on behalf of the group. In determining this, the court will consider;

  • the applicant's relevant expertise or special abilities;
  • the applicant's interest in the proceedings and any potential benefit they will obtain (and that these do not conflict with the interest of the group as a whole); and
  • the applicant's ability to demonstrate "sufficient competence" to litigate the claims properly, including their financial resources to meet any costs awards.

New rules may have far-reaching consequences

Prior to the introduction of the group proceedings legislation in 2020, it was not possible for pursuers to group together to raise claims in the Scottish courts. The extent to which the new rules will be utilised is not yet known. However, the claims which have been raised on behalf of the Kenyan tea farm workers are an interesting illustration of their potential broad application and may cause some concern for many organisations. They may find themselves exposed to claims which they may have been unlikely to face from individual pursuers and, as such, may not be contemplating.

For more on group proceedings please see some of our previous blogs and webinar below:


Ross Campbell

Senior Associate

Craig Watt

Partner & Solicitor Advocate