This chapter describes, discusses, and critiques the study of product liability from a comparative perspective. Its point is not to restate product liability law in and of itself in any part of the world, nor is it actually to compare product liability laws in a systematic way. The point of this chapter is rather to introduce the reader to comparative product liability law as a field of study, that is, to survey its terrain and to explain its strengths and weaknesses.
This chapter conceives of ‘universal values’ as the fundamental normative premises generally accepted in Western-style choice of law systems. These premises have changed significantly over the last 50 years. The traditional (Savignian) system’s four major premises – equality of legal systems, neutrality of conflicts rules, uniformity of outcomes and predictability of decisions – have eroded to the point where they should no longer be considered ‘universal’. At the same time, we have seen the ascendance of three other normative premises: party autonomy, protection of party expectations and state self-preference. This shift evinces a transition from the classic private law model to what may be called regulated transnationalism. In this new environment, we should embrace a broader value – fundamental fairness: choice of law rules should designate a (substantive) law that imposes obligations on a party only if that party either is a member of the community enacting that law or has submitted itself, explicitly or implicitly, to the law of the respective jurisdiction.