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The rules on liability for defective products have been harmonized within the European Union through Directive 85/374/EEC of 25 July 1985 on the approximation of laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning liability for defective products.
This directive was enacted in France by the law of 19 May 1998 that inserts the provisions relating to the liability for defective products into the French civil code. In Belgium, the Directive was enacted by the Law of 25 February 1991.
The special feature of this Directive lies in the possibility for the victim to sue not only the producer but also:
- The importer who is jointly liable with the producer;
- The supplier, if the producer of the product cannot be identified
In addition, the term ‘producer’ stands for the manufacturer of a finished product, the producer of any raw material or the manufacturer of a component part and any person who is a producer by affixing to the product his name, trade mark or other distinctive sign.
On the basis of this provision, the Belgian civil supreme court ruled that a company who affixed its name prominently on the fork of a bicycle is liable for the accident caused by the defective bicycle, even though this fork was manufactured by another company (Court of Cassation, Civ., Brussels, 10 November 2009).
Our firm’s work in the field of product liability is threefold:
- We provide legal advice on distribution contracts in order to ensure their compliance with the provisions of Directive 85/374;
- Regarding the legal analysis of an accident, we determine if, and to what extent, the firm’s clients could be held responsible in the light of the Directive;
- We litigate.
- Medical liability
The rules of medical liability in Belgium and in France follow the conventional liability rules provided by the civil code. However, if a medical accident is caused by the use of a product (syringe, medical equipment, etc.), the rules outlined above on the liability for defective products apply.
Our firm provides legal advice and litigates in the field of medical liability.
In the latter case, we prepare and file on behalf of our clients their dossiers with the national Bodies responsible for funding the victims of medical accidents (i.e. the “ Fonds des accidents médicaux” in Belgium and the “Commissions Régionales de conciliation et d’indemnisation (CRCI)” or the “Office National d’Indemnisation des Accidents Médicaux” (ONIAM) in France).