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Product Liability Litigation
Product Liability Litigation Definition
Product Liability Litigation forms a major category of commercial disputes in state courts (as opposed to Commercial Arbitration) where a customer that has allegedly suffered damages from a defective product seeks recourse against its producer or importer. In such cases, the alleged damages often exceed the value of the product substantially. In addition to the product being defective as such, customers may claim further damages that have followed from its malfunction.
Regularly Product Liability Litigation involves many parallel cases with a potentially unlimited number of claimants. Whether or not these claimants may be combined into one court proceeding against one defendant (class action) will depend on the national jurisdiction under which such claims are brought. Unlike in the United States, in Germany, for instance, there is no such thing as a class action in product liability cases, so that in principle all cases have to be litigated separately.
On the European level, the member states of the European Union have tried to alleviate the effects of the (international) fragmentation by introducing standardized product liability laws. However, national laws and particularities still have to be regarded. For example, in Germany, the courts have developed a sophisticated product liability scheme based on standard statutory law long before the European Legislation on the subject that remains in force to date.
In general, specialized lawyers will either act for producers and importers on the one hand, or on behalf of customers on the other. It is rather uncommon that specialized lawyers take cases for claimants and defendants alike. The reason is that acting for a producer or importer requires a very different skill set and law firm setup than acting on behalf of customers. While the latter requires a law firm to acquire as many potential claimants as possible and to deal with large numbers of often non-professional claimants, the former requires the ability defend a single corporate client against a large number of individuals in many individual cases.
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