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United Kingdom


In the United Kingdom, all claims are brought in the civil courts. Claims may be brought in contract, tort and under a statutory strict liability regime covering consumers for personal injury and damage to personal property. It is impossible to exclude liability for personal injury. Exclusion of liability in consumer contracts is subject to strict regulation. Exclusion of liability in commercial contracts is normally subject to a requirement of reasonableness. It is not possible to recover punitive or aggravated damages.

UK courts will not enforce foreign judgments in respect of such damages. Statutory strict liability attaches to the producer of a product and/or first importer of a product into the European community. A retailer may be a “producer” in certain circumstances. There is a limited state of the art defence. There is no statutory compensation scheme for personal injury. The normal limitation for most legal proceedings is six years (from date of breach of contract/damage in tort), three for personal injury claims. Legal costs are recovered by winning parties (approximately 75 percent). Success fees are permissible with a possible uplift of 100 percent in some cases.

There is limited scope for class actions under the group litigation order procedure. 


There are four main investigating bodies: the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) (workplace products); Trading Standards (consumer products); Environmental Health Department (food); and the MHRA (pharmaceuticals and medicines). All must be notified immediately of any risk in relation to a product which makes it “unsafe” and which falls within their remit. All have draconian powers to ensure a recall, including the ability to prosecute a corporate entity and/or its directors. They can carry out a recall themselves and charge the company the cost of so doing.

HSE will always prosecute where an injury arises out of a defective product being used in the workplace and will always prosecute manufacturers of unsafe products, even if the manufacturer initiates a recall. The other investigating authorities will normally look to the manufacturer to remedy the situation and to carry out the recall. If the manufacturer is outside the UK, the authorities will look primarily to the importer or retailer. Fines are unlimited.

Central government tends to limit its role to overseeing matters unless the issue is a national one in which case it can use draconian emergency powers to remedy the situation.

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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.