Healthcare & Life Sciences
Minister for Social Affairs and Health Marisol Touraine recently suggested that class actions in the health sector are imminent. This announcement is concomitant with examination by Parliament of the Consumer Bill, which introduces class actions to the Consumer Code – except in the health and environmental sectors. Thus, this proclamation is perhaps somewhat premature.
The Cour de Cassation recently ruled on the notions of defect and the causal relationship between defect and damage in a case where there is still no scientific proof that the product in question can cause such damage. Although this decision concerned a vaccine, it is part of a new trend which may have direct consequences for product liability law, especially in the life sciences sector.
Several eagerly awaited judgments have recently been handed down by the French civil courts in product liability cases involving the vaccine for the hepatitis B virus. These were the first decisions on the issue since the Court of Cassation altered its case law on May 22 2008 with respect to the demonstration of a causal relationship between the vaccine and neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis.
Until recently, the Court of Cassation had consistently rejected product liability claims from hepatitis B vaccination patients who have subsequently suffered neurological disorders. However, the court has now altered its position, opening the doors for compensation in these cases.
The Supreme Court recently considered whether the development risk defence is applicable to products released during the 10-year period in which implementation of the EU Product Liability Directive was delayed. Its decision confirms previous case law: producers are not entitled to rely on the defence for defective products that were put into circulation before the directive was implemented.
During the past few years, there has been much debate about whether children should be able to claim damages from doctors for acts causing disability at birth. On January 24 2006 the Civil Supreme Court followed two European Court of Human Rights decisions of October 2005 and restricted the temporal application of the Kouchner Law to cases initiated after its entry into force.
The matter of compensation for victims of asbestos exposure and penalties for those responsible has received considerable attention. The Senate's Investigative Group on Asbestos published a report in October 2005 which blamed the state and the asbestos industry for the asbestos problem. The report almost coincided with a judgment handed down by the Supreme Court in relation to a criminal investigation.
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