If you have suffered an injury as a result of a defective product, you may have certain questions in mind regarding the responsibilities of the manufacturer and whether you are eligible to make a claim * against them. On this page, you will find some general guidance relating to product liability and the criteria for making a claim *.
Instigating a Product Liability Claim
Product liability is governed by a separate piece of European legislation implemented in Ireland under the Liability for Defective Products Act, 1991.
One of the big considerations in the context of defective product claims, as opposed to claims in negligence, is that there is a three year limitation period rather than two years in the case of most other claims.
Defect product claims are made in what is referred to as a strict liability regime, which means that if you can show that the injury was caused by the product, you don’t have to show negligence or provide proof of the nature of the defect, the liability follows automatically.
While there is a three year liability period, there is a ten-year backstop, where if the product has been in circulation on the market for 10 years or more, then no liability attaches. In those circumstances, the question arises as to what “in circulation” actually means. You could have a situation where you have a medical device that was developed 20 years ago and if you were to rely on that date as the one that was first released on the market, then you’d be precluded from relying on the Liability for Defective Products Act. However, the better view appears to be that it’s the actual date when the individual product in question was first acquired on the market, i.e. sold to a consumer or put into use as part of a service or procedure.
Product liability is beneficial in so far as (a) its strict regulatory regime and (b), you’ve got a longer limitation period.
An area in which product liability has been very significant, in the field of compensation claims, is the area of medical devices. Medical devices in this context would include prosthetics, heart valves, pacemakers, implants, joint replacements, anything of that nature. We are currently dealing with numerous enquiries regarding DePuy’s Attune Knee System, for example. While medical device claims are one of the largest areas of defective product claims, the liability regime can apply to any products causing injury, whether common household products such as lawnmowers and electrical equipment etc., commercial equipment and power tools or even vehicles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What does the term ‘product liability’ mean?
Product Liability is the legal liability that a manufacturer or supplier of a defective product bears for producing or selling that faulty product. In Ireland, liability for defective products falls under four main categories: statute, tort, contract and criminal.
Q. Is Product Liability itself a law?
Under Irish law, civil liability for defective products is covered by a principal statute called the Liability for Defective Products Act 1991 (“the 1991 Act”), which was enacted to implement EC directive 85/374 (the “Directive”).
Q. What is not covered by the Liability for Defective Products Act 1991?
The 1991 Act covers tortious, but not criminal, sales of defective products. Inferior, faulty products which are not fit for purpose, but which have not caused any damage are not covered by this act, and criminal negligence cases are brought under The European Communities (General Product Safety) Regulations 2004 (2004 Regulations).
Q. What is the meaning of tort?
Tort is a wrongful act or an infringement of a right (other than under contract) leading to legal liability. Manufacturers, producers, suppliers and traders may be sued in tort for reasonably foreseeable damage caused to parties to whom they owe a duty of care. Unlike under the 1991 Act, it is potentially possible to sue in tort for non-dangerous defects in products.
Q. What is the meaning of contract?
When a supplier delivers goods under contract, it is covered by the Sale of Goods Act 1893 and the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980 (Sale of Goods Acts). This act stipulates that goods supplied under contract must be of “merchantable quality” (they must be fit for purpose and durable at a level that is specified in the contract). Products that fail to meet this standard will place the seller in breach of contract.
Q. Is it illegal to knowingly sell a defective product?
Under the Consumer Protection Act 2007, consumers are entitled to information which protects them from false claims about goods, services and prices. This act protects consumers by making it an offence for any business to make a false or misleading claim about goods, services and prices. It is also an offence to sell goods which are labelled with a false or misleading description.
Q. What qualifies as a defective product?
Under the 1991 Act, a product is deemed “defective” if it fails to provide adequate safety to the consumer. This statute relates only to the safety of the product and does not concern products that are of inferior quality.
Q. How do I report a defective product?
It’s important to ensure that you return a defective product as soon as you are aware of the fault. If you keep a faulty item for a long period of time, you may be considered to have accepted the item in that state. If the product is dangerous, you should report it to the CPCC immediately.
Q. How do I file a product liability claim?
Initially, you should seek the advice of an experienced product liability solicitor. A qualified solicitor will be able to best advise you on how to instigate your claim. The court in which a product liability claim is brought is determined by the monetary value of the claim.
About McCarthy + Co
With more than 30 years of experience in dealing with personal injury claims *, McCarthy + Co. has expertise in a wide variety of fields including product liability claims. We are a family-run business, who pride ourselves on offering honest, impartial and helpful advice.
Our offices are based in Dublin and Cork but we have worked with clients throughout Ireland in locations ranging from Galway to Waterford. You can count on us for legal advice, guidance and assistance on any form of personal injury *.
Get in contact with our personal injury solicitors today to make a start on your claim * or gather more information. Call us on 1800 390 555 and an experienced member of staff will discuss your situation and potential next steps. You can also email on email@example.com and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.