Litigation Rules and Culture: The European Perspective


A survey of the rules and practice of product liability law in Europe shows patterns of similarity between countries, but not absolute consistency. European product liability laws have continued to vary despite implementation of the 1985 European Union (EU) Directive (the Directive) on product liability law, which was to have brought about “approximation” of the laws of Member States.

These discrepancies in European product liability laws reflect both current social and economic differences between member states and the unique history of each country’s legal system. Furthermore, the Directive itself reinforces some of these variables. For example, the provisions of the Directive are not exclusive of other remedies nor do they affect the rights of persons who were injured prior to its implementation. Also, the Directive preserves the laws of Member States with respect to limitation periods.

I will first list important aspects of product liability law in the Member States prior to implementation of the Directive. Next, I will discuss several important provisions of the Directive and their current state of implementation. Finally, I will use examples from my own experiences working to clarify the Directive to make a few predictions about the future of European liability litigation.

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