There are relatively few countries in the world that have a mixed or hybrid legal system using both common law (court authority) and civil law (legislation). The most common type of legal system is civil law, where the law is determined exclusively by codes or legislation. Several other countries in the world have hybrid systems that use customary or religious hybrid systems, but less than 20 have a civil/common law hybrid, like Scotland. That means that when courts make decisions in Scotland, they can look at what the legislation says, as well as previous court decisions - to review what precedents have already been set.

As Brodies have commented on before, group proceedings have been possible in Scotland since 2020. Of those that have a similar hybrid system to Scotland, how do their "group proceedings" compare with ours? We review a selection from across the world here.

South Africa

Class actions, as they are called in South Africa, have been around since the early 1990s. The procedure is largely regulated and developed by judge-made law rather than specific rules or legislation. The courts have only heard a few class actions in that time, as most applications are not "certified" by the court, or are often settled shortly after certification of a class.

Prospective applicants must generally convince the court that there is an objectively identified class of claimants with a common issue and determinable relief (with a procedure to allocate damages if successful), a valid cause of action which raises a triable issue, a proposed "class representative" to lead, and that a class action is the most appropriate means to determine the issue. The applicants have the option of choosing an "opt out" or "opt in" system.


"Class actions", as such, are not possible in the Cyprus court rules. However, where multiple people have the same interest, some parties can be authorised by the court to sue or defend on behalf of, or for the benefit of, all the other interested parties. Courts can also merge cases together if there are similar questions of law or facts in each matter.


Malta has legislation that allows "collective actions". Collective actions are allowed for breaches of specific pieces of consumer-orientated legislation. All collective actions are "opt in" as they must have specifically identified plaintiffs with a class description, and with a lead "representative plaintiff", if sought. The proposed collective action must be the most appropriate means for resolution of common issues of more than one claimant, in regard to breaches of the relevant legislation.


There is provision in the Philippine rules of court that allow "class suits". A class suit is an "opt out" system for one cause of action that is common enough people to make it "impracticable" for all of them to be joined as parties, without prejudice to a party who may want to intervene in the case in order to protect their individual interest in the matter.


There is no legal provision for class actions in Mauritius. However, following a massive oil spill two years ago, and a motion filed at the Supreme Court of Mauritius by the owners of the ship involved to limit their liability, nearly 2,000 people who were affected by the disaster have filed a motion to be allowed to intervene as third parties. This may be the start of "class actions" in Mauritius if their application is successful.


A recent court decision in Namibia saw the Supreme Court state that class actions are not permitted or recognised in their law, and refused to allow one to proceed. However, there are elements of the constitution of Namibia that do permit "classes of persons" who are aggrieved by the conduct of others, to approach the courts to obtain an appropriate remedy. It therefore remains to be seen if class actions are eventually permitted to go through the courts, even though they do appear to be allowed in terms of the legislation.


There are wide-ranging options within the different countries considered. Some countries have opt in only systems, others are opt out only, and others allow both. Some countries are new to group proceedings, others have procedures of long-standing. Some are governed by common law and others by legislation. Some other hybrid legal systems - Seychelles, Guyana and Saint Lucia for example – do not appear have to have provision for group proceedings at all. Some others have limited provision, but are considering expansion, or, like Namibia, may have provision for group proceedings but the court will not allow them. It may be noted however that in hybrid systems, more authority is given to the court to decide whether to allow, and how to run, class actions.

Despite similarities in legal systems, there is no common theme for allowing group proceedings. Some systems provide much greater rights to remedy wide-spread wrongs than others, depending on where they live and whether their group proceeding systems have been developed or are more all-encompassing than others. This may result in people, particularly consumers, trying to raise proceedings in a different country (where possible) to assert any rights to damages they have against large corporations operating internationally.


Craig Watt

Partner & Solicitor Advocate

Stephen Goldie

Managing Partner

Eve Gilchrist