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Product Liability Notes

GDL Law Notes > GDL Tort Law Notes

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A more recent version of these Product Liability notes – written by Cambridge/Bpp/College Of Law students – is available here.

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Tort: Product Liability Historical Background

- Product liability: consumer sues manufacturer for defective goods causing damage.

- Sources of law. civil law: contract + tort. criminal law: Consumer Protection Act 1989 (Part 3) - criminal offence to sell defective goods enforced by Trading Standards Officers (TSOs). EU law.

- Liability for defective products: contract law, law of tort, statutory provisions. contract law: limited by privity of contract (although Contract (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999). statutes: Sale of Goods Act 1979; Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1995; Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. advantage over tort:

1. no damage needed (product simply defective);

2. no need to prove fault;

3. pure economic loss claims allowed;

4. implied terms used. law of tort: not subject to privity.

- Tort: 2 causes of action for product liability. common law negligence: still used where statute deficient (e.g. limitation period expired). Consumer Protection Act 1987 (Part 1): preferred - imposes strict liability (no need to prove fault).

Liability at Common Law

1. Damage: what to claim for.

- Damage required for tortious liability. merely defective goods: poor functioning/low quality - contract law. dangerous goods: damage from a defect - tort law.

- Type of damage: PI + consequential economic loss (but not pure economic loss). not pure economic loss: damage to property itself - Muirhead v Industrial Tank Specialities Ltd [1986]. value of defective product pure economic loss - Murphy v Brentwood DC [1991]. but: complex structure theory may apply: damage by one part of product to another part recoverable - Aswan Engineering Establishment Co v Lupdine Ltd [1987]: defective plastic buckets melt + damage compound packaged inside ? obiter: claim possible (but failed for remoteness).

- Type of product: most goods, packaging, labelling, instructions/warnings.

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