Class actions – which are progressively becoming part of the legal landscape in France as “actions de groupe” – will probably soon be extended to personal injury claims against health products manufacturers, suppliers or service providers using health products.

On March 17, 2015, a new bill proposal was issued, advocating the creation of a class action procedure for the health sector.

Plenary discussions at the French National Assembly will commence March 31, 2015, and will more precisely address the issue of compensation for personal injury in the framework of the proposed class action.

Under the proposed framework – similarly to other class actions already permitted in France – patients and users’ associations have a monopoly on bringing legal actions for damages for physical injury allegedly suffered by similarly-situated users of the health system. The class actions contemplated would be allowed for alleged breaches of statutory and/or contractual obligations of manufacturers or suppliers of health products.

In a first phase, the judge will review the admissibility of the action and will decide over the liability of the defendant through an analysis of the cases brought forward by the association. The judge will then define the proposed class—the group of patients that may seek to impose liability on the defendant—and determine the criteria that patients must meet to be included into the group.

One cornerstone issue will be how judges will deal with the heterogeneity of patients’ personal injuries within the framework of a class action, as well as with compensation issues likely to arise.

Regarding the latter, recent attempts to ease claims for compensation through an organized compensation system have had mixed results in France, and the proposed compensation often is, in general, lower than the amount a claimant could obtain in a separate lawsuit. As a consequence, many claimants have preferred to file an individual lawsuit rather than following a more global compensation program. This has been particularly the case for claims related to asbestos diseases.

Finally, it must be noted that French class actions will not allow any form of punitive damages.

This blog will continue to closely monitor the implementation of class action procedures in France.