As consumers we expect the products we buy to be safe. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. When products are defective, they may cause their users personal injury, loss and damage. Typically, such cases arise in relation to construction defects in buildings, dangerous medical devices, defective appliances and unsafe machinery or equipment. In Ireland, liability for defective products falls under four main headings; Statute, Tort, Criminal and Contract Law.
The Liability for Defective Products Acts 1991 protects consumers from products that do not reach a reasonable level of safety and cause foreseeable injury, damage or loss. Under this Act, the producer of the product shall be liable for damages. Under the 1991 Act, you have a two-year period to initiate proceedings for the recovery of damages owing to a defective product.
In order to bring a successful Tort action for a Defective Product, you must prove that a duty of care relationship existed, there was a breach of that duty of care and there is a link between breach of duty and damage caused. To ascertain who is responsible for a defective product in Tort, you must establish who owes the user a duty of care, i.e. the manufacturer, retailer, supplier or importer. The Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 impose a two-year time limit on bringing a personal injury claim, while in Tort the statute of limitation stands at six years.
The General Product Safety Regulations 2004 impose criminal liability for placing unsafe products on the market. These Regulations make a producer and, in some cases, distributors, responsible for the manufacturing and distribution of unsafe products an offence.
The Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980 governs the law on defective and dangerous goods in Ireland. It generally the seller who has a contractual responsibility to the buyer in respect of defects. Under the 1980 Act, you have six years to initiate proceedings from when the breach of contract occurred.
If you have been harmed by a defective product, you should take the following steps;
- Seek medical treatment;
- Preserve the product and proof of purchase;
- Contact a solicitor to discuss what options are open to you.