Jenny Steele and Willem H. van Boom INTRODUCTION Our legal world is one of growing “massification”. Standard contracts affect multiple customers, mass torts (whether arising from product injuries or disastrous events) involve numerous victims and sometimes numerous tortfeasors; environmental problems affect communities as a whole and may have scattered or hard to trace effects; and insolvencies concern a collective of creditors. Various pressures can deepen the impact of these developments, including the economic feasibility of mass rather than individual representation on the claimants’ side, given the economies of scale enjoyed by many defendants. At the same time, the emergence of shared goals and a common interest in deterrence or “peace-keeping” functions of civil liability may create a demand for collective representation, in some instances leading to a blurring of the boundaries between public and private law as collective solutions take on a regulatory or at least “public interest” flavour. The motivation for this collection lies in a recognition that the search for “mass” civil justice throws up novel challenges for legal systems which have so far barely been addressed. For example, the ambition to deliver or secure “mass justice” raises questions about the possibility of fair representation of all individual interests in the context of settlements reached on behalf of a group; about questions of access and civil procedure; and about the very goal or purpose of “compensation”. Inherently, the balance between individual and collective interests, and between private and public goals of civil law, is called into question in...
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