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Photo of Charles Dougherty QC and Isabel Barter win key Product Liability case

Charles Dougherty QC and Isabel Barter win key Product Liability case

Date: December 10, 2019

The High Court has today, in Wilson v Beko [2019] EWHC 3362 (QB), handed down an important decision on the question whether it is possible for consumers to circumvent the limitations of the Product Liability Directive/ Pt I of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 by instead bringing a claim for breach of statutory duty of safety regulations made under Part II of the CPA.

The claimants sought to argue that they could bring a strict liability claim for breach of statutory duty of the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 under section 41(1) of the CPA, even though a claim under Pt I of the CPA (enacting the Product Liability Directive) was not possible because of the 10 year longstop. Section 41(1) on its face makes breach of safety regulations made under Part II of the CPA actionable. The claimants argued that claims under section 41(1) were different in nature from those Product Liability Directive/ Pt I of the CPA. The claim had very significant implications beyond electrical goods as a very wide range of products are subject to safety regulations under Part II of the CPA.

Julian Knowles J ruled, accepting the defendant’s arguments, that Part I of the CPA and the Product Liability Directive provide for an exhaustive system of liability within their scope, precluding any other form of strict liability claim. He noted that it would otherwise be open to claimants to bypass the defences in the Product Liability Directive, including the 10 year longstop, development risks defence and financial threshold for claims. He accordingly ruled that, in accordance with the Marleasing principle, safety regulations made under Part II of the CPA had to be read down so as to preclude a claim for breach of statutory duty insofar as the claim would otherwise fall within the scope of the Product Liability Directive.

A copy of the decision can be accessed here.

Charles Dougherty QC and Isabel Barter, both from 2TG, instructed by Kennedys, appeared for the successful Defendant. Simeon Maskrey QC and Adam Korn, instructed by Leigh Day, appeared for the Claimants.

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