LAW4531 - Product liability law from a comparative perspective - 2018

6 points, SCA Band 3, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Chief examiner(s)

Dr Heli Askola

Not offered in 2018


LAW2101 Contract A and LAW2102 Contract B and LAW2201 Torts A and LAW2202 Torts B or an equivalent Introductory course in tort law and contract law at another university.


Product Liability refers to civil liability for injuries caused by defective products. This class will focus mainly on two systems of addressing injuries from defective products the American law system and the European Union system.

Product liability occupies a central role in American law, as the number of new products used by consumers has increased exponentially. With this proliferation of new consumer products has come an increase in injuries. Products liability is a major way America attempts to deter firms from manufacturing unsafe products, and to compensate those that suffer injury from those products.

The first part of the course will examine the American product liability system, focusing on the key sources of law underlying that system--common law principles of negligence, strict liability and deceit, contract and warranty principles, and statutory principles found in the Uniform Commercial Code. Using these sources of law, the course will explore the main theories of manufacturer liability, the concept of product defect, and defences available to the manufacturer under American law.

The second part of the course will explore the same issues from the EU perspective. The European Community adopted its first Product Liability Directive in 1985, and its version of strict products liability has since been adopted in some version in many parts of the world. The EU approach differs in many important ways from the American approach. For example, the EU directive focuses on a test for defect the consumer expectation test that has been abandoned or given less significance in most American jurisdictions. The two systems like wise differ in their respective approaches to proof, remedies, defences, and defining a proper defendant. Moreover, unlike the American system, where product liability dominates the system of accident compensation, in most European countries, product liability plays a more modest role, and acts more as a supplement to the social compensation systems available in those countries.

Why have the two systems evolved in such different ways? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches? Those are the core issues that the course will address.


The objective of the course is to understand and compare two systems of addressing injuries from consumer products, the American law approach and the European Union approach.


Assessment will be based on class participation (10%), a short research project based on class readings (40%), and a take home examination (50%).

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. The unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information