Product Safety and Liability Law in Japan: From Minamata to Mad Cows

By Luke Nottage | Go to book overview
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4

The PL Law in action

Introduction

Chapter 3 compared the provisions, main commentary, and emerging case law in the 'strict liability' regimes in Japan, the EU, Australia and the US. Generally, however, there are still few reported-and even unreported-judgments outside the US, and other effects have not been large. In 1995 for example, coinciding with the European Commission's first review of the EC Directive, conference presentations and national reports organized through the Consumer Law Centre at a Belgian university generally concluded that hardly any judgments had been reported applying the Directive; instead, manufacturers referred disputes to ADR and insurers were often called upon. Nonetheless, manufacturers did appear to be taking more precautions in safety features of goods potentially covered by the Directive, and to be conducting more recalls, although this impact 'was not readily quantifiable and also has to be related to the adoption and implementation of the General Product Safety Directive (92/59/EEC)' (Goyens 1996:238). Westphalen (1996:83, 85) maintained that 'the German law has not been "Americanized" …The absence of negligence as a prerequisite to the manufacturer's liability has had no impact on the case law', although judgments under Article 823 of the Civil Code were 'developing rapidly to the benefit of the consumer'. In Italy, which had implemented the Directive in 1988, there was only one reported judgment, from 1993 (Alpa and Stoppa 1996:79). Mildred (1996:49) could find 'no report of any case pursued to judgment or subject to any interlocutory ruling where liability under the [Consumer Protection Act 1987] has been pleaded', while briefly noting nine claims where the Act seems to have been relied upon, and more anecdotal evidence of some others. 1 Availability and costs of insurance had not been significantly affected. One assessment of the overall 'impact of the Directive on European industry', based on 'discussions with many colleagues in industry, publications and a survey of 88 German companies', nonetheless concluded that:

Product quality has improved generally. This is mainly a consequence of increased competition in the Single Market and of new methods of quality management, but may also be due in part to product liability. Nearly all

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