Consumer protection demands that producers of products are responsible for the safety of the goods they manufacture and that, in the event that they are faulty, appropriate avenues of action are available to anyone affected by the faulty goods. In Cyprus, the EU legislation governing product liability (Council Directive 85/374/EEC) has been directly implemented into Cypriot law through the Defective Products (Civil Liability) Laws of 1995 to 2002 (Law 105 (I) 95).
In this article Michael Chambers considers some of the key provisions of the Cypriot law and the ways in which producers can protect themselves against claims.
What is “Defective”
Under the law, a product will be considered to be defective if it does not provide a consumer with the level of safety that he ought to be reasonably entitled to expect, taking into account the presentation of the product, the use that the product could reasonably be expected to be put to and the time when the product was released into circulation. “Defect” is not simply established by virtue of the fact that there is a better product on the market.
Principle responsibility for a defective product will lie with the producer or manufacturer of the product.
What needs to be proved
The burden of proof in a product liability claim will lie with the person claiming to be injured. He needs to prove that he has suffered damage which on the balance of probabilities was caused by the defendant’s defective product. The so-called
“but for” test will be applied as follows – but for the defendant’s defective product, would the claimant have suffered the damage?
What Sort of Damage is Necessary
Damage can be damage by death or personal injury, or damage to or destruction of an item of property, provided that the property is of a type ordinarily intended for private use or consumption and is used by the injured person mainly for his own private use or consumption.
Can a Producer Exclude Liability for Product Liability
It is not possible to exclude liability for personal injury or death under Cypriot law.
What Defenses Are Available in a Product Liability Claim
It is a defense for a manufacturer to show:
- that he did not manufacture the product for sale or distribution for economic purposes nor was the product distributed in the course of the manufacturers business.
- that the product was not put into circulation by the manufacturer.
- that the component manufactured by a producer of part of a design was not the cause of the defect, which was in fact caused by the overall design.
- that the defect is caused by compliance with regulatory provisions.
- that the defect came into existence after being put into circulation.
- that according to the state of scientific and technical knowledge at the time of circulation of the product no defect would have been discovered.
The burden of proof to prove such defenses rests with the manufacturer.
It is possible for contributory negligence to be established, meaning that the liability of a producer of a defective product may be reduced or even completely removed if the actions of the claimant have contributed to the damage.
Can Group Actions Occur
Class actions/group actions are common in product liability claims when there is more than one person affected by the defective products. The Civil Procedure Rules in Cyprus permit, with the Court’s assent, a group action to be taken.
Is There a Time Limit Within Which Claims Should be Brought
Time limits for claims do exist and a claim must be brought within 3 years of the date that the claimant knew (or ought reasonably to have known) that damage occurred. The rights conferred upon claimants extinguish after 10 years from the date upon which the producer placed the product into circulation, unless proceedings are instituted by the claimant in the meantime.
How Can A Producer Protect Himself
- Give high priority to product safety and quality;
- Consult your lawyer to get all the facts about sector specific regulations such as those applicable for the production of food, chemicals, pharmaceuticals etc, etc;
- Review quality control and quality assurance procedures;
- Consult your lawyer regarding product descriptions, labels, instructions etc, etc.
- Review your agreements with suppliers of components etc and seek indemnities for matters for which they are responsible;
- Review your insurance cover – product liability insurance will cover liability for accidental bodily injury or damage arising from your products.
Product liability claims can be extensive and costly for manufacturers. Producers need to be aware of the scope of potential claims against them and to protect themselves by prioritizing product safety, insuring and understanding what legal regulations require of them.
Michael Chambers and C.o LLC’s litigation specialists are able to offer advice to both claimants and defendants in a product liability claim. We are also able to advise manufacturers on preemptive action which can be taken in order to minimize risk of a claim ever occurring. If you wish to speak to a member of our team then please contact us.