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Netherlands

Litigation       

The Netherlands has implemented the EC Product Liability Directive into the Dutch Civil Code. Claims also can be based on contractual or tort-based liability. Criminal liability may apply to certain categories of products. For example, a pharmaceutical manufacturer can be prosecuted for causing physical injury by wrongfully manufacturing pharmaceuticals (i.e. knowing that they are harmful to health and not notifying the purchaser and taking appropriate action such as a full product recall).

The Dutch Civil Code does not provide for discovery or disclosure. How parties substantiate their claims is completely up to them, while the judge has substantial discretion in weighing the evidence. Arguments and facts can be substantiated by submitting party expert reports or by requesting oral hearings which will be conducted by the court. Expert evidence is not mandatory unless the court deems it so.

Class actions are not available. Multi-party actions may be brought if there is sufficient connection between the claims. Collective actions also may be brought by interest groups such as consumer associations in order to obtain declarations about liability. It is then up to individual claimants to use the declarations to negotiate compensation or start their own proceedings. Alternatively, the Act on Collective Settlement of Mass Damages allows for courts to declare binding collective settlement agreements regarding mass damage. The agreement is reached between the perpetrator of the damage and the association which serves the interests of the victims. The Act provides an opt-out for those victims who do not want to take part in the collective settlement. 

Regulation       

The following regulatory bodies play important roles in regulating the manufacture, distribution, advertising and recalls of products: the Voedsel en Waren Autoriteit (food and consumer products); the College Beoordeling Geneesmiddelen (human/veterinary pharmaceuticals, medicines and preloaded medical devices); and the Arbeidsinspectie (health and safety during employment, including working conditions, as well as tools).

All of the regulatory bodies mentioned above must be notified immediately of any risk to a product which makes it unsafe and which falls within their purview. In principle these authorities will normally look to the manufacturer to remedy the situation within the context of guidance given by them. However, all have the power to ensure any type of recall which they can carry out themselves and charge the company the cost of so doing. The central government tends to limit its role to overseeing matters as mandated by the regulatory bodies. 

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Netherlands

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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.