Italy's comprehensive product liability regime sets out the relationship between consumers, vendors and manufacturers in respect of goods. This update outlines the main rules on a producer's liability for defective products and a vendor's warranties for products under the Consumer Code.
Two decisions by the joint divisions of the Supreme Court have laid down significant principles on causation and limitation. Although the claims involved treatment with blood derivative products, the court's reasoning is likely to affect a far wider range of cases.
The Italian legislation that implements the EU Product Liability Directive specifies that a producer is not liable for damage caused by a defect in a product if the consumer is aware of the defect and of the ensuing risk, and accepts such risk. A recent decision is one of the first in Italy to consider in detail the standards that product information must meet in order to warn consumers adequately.
The EU Product Liability Directive and Italy's implementing legislation establish that an injured party bears the burden of proving the defect in the product, the damage and the causation between the two. However, manufacturers have been found liable solely on the basis of damage and causation, the alleged defect in their product being inferred. A Supreme Court ruling sheds new light on the issue.
A case involving a distributor's liability for the inaccurate labelling of an alcoholic beverage raises the question of whether a mere distributor - which is not involved in the production process and has no influence on what information appears on the label - may be held liable for incorrect labelling under national legislation.
The Antitrust Authority, the body in charge of enforcing the laws relating to misleading and comparative advertising, has fined an Italian producer of frozen pre-fried potatoes for using a nutritional claim which was considered to be misleading to consumers. This decision partly foreshadowed the nutritional claim provisions in the recently enacted EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation.
In two cases involving infections caused by blood transfusions or treatment with blood derivatives, product manufacturers have been able to avail themselves of the development risks defence or an equivalent. The revival of this defence is an encouraging trend for manufacturers and suppliers which operate in innovative industries.
Two draft bills aimed at introducing class actions in Italy were recently presented to Parliament. Both are aimed at providing consumers affected by the same unlawful event with greater legal protection, but one explicitly allows for class proceedings in respect of tort as well as contract claims. In principle, this would open the door to class claims against product manufacturers and distributors.
In a ruling deciding a claim for damages the Italian Supreme Court confirmed that a claimant seeking compensation for damage caused by a defective product can rely on national principles of negligence as well as the laws implementing the Product Liability Directive.
Two recently published decisions concern automotive product liability involving injury and death, and deal, among other things, with the recoverability of moral damages decided under the strict liability regime. In both decisions the court allowed the plaintiffs to recover moral damages in a strict liability scenario - something not previously considered possible.
Including: Liability Systems; Other Liability Schemes; Definition of 'Producer'; Defences and Market Share Liability; Statute of Limitations; Procedure; Damages.
The Milan District Court recently entered judgment in a product liability case which stands out as one of the few decisions decided under Italian Presidential Decree 224/88, which implemented the EU Product Liability Directive. The decision confirms the impression that Italian courts are still experimenting with the application of European product liability law.