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Germany

Litigation      

In Germany, product liability claims are handled by the civil courts. The district courts are normally the courts of first instance. The outcome of disputes largely depends on the findings of experts who are appointed by the court. Courts do not award punitive damages and do not allow enforcement of foreign judgements in respect to such damages. German courts are slowly becoming more receptive to the idea of class actions in such areas as capital markets disputes but they do not yet allow product liability class actions.

Most consumer cases are based on the Product Liability Act and on the Civil Code provisions on tort. Although under certain circumstances the damaged party does not bear the burden of proof for the entire chain of evidence, it is still challenging and therefore burdensome to the claimant to demonstrate a producer’s liability and to quantify damages. 

Regulation    

Germany’s legislative framework largely complies with the relevant European Council Directives, such as the Liability for Defective Products Directive 88/374/EEC and the General Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC.

Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA) was established in 1974. The UBA describes itself as an early warning system, but its administrative powers are limited. It plays an instrumental role in helping companies adopt REACH Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006. Administrative powers governing product recalls are vested in local authorities in accordance with specific legislation in each federal state. Although these authorities coordinate their activities, no central federal institutions are empowered to recall products and this clearly hampers the effectiveness of product liability regulation.

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Germany

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Note past results are not guarantees of future results. Each matter is individual and will be decided on its own facts.