Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition
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Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition

Edited by Jan M. Smits

Written by leading authorities in their respective fields, the contributions in this accessible book cover and combine not only questions regarding the methodology of comparative law, but also specific areas of law (such as administrative law and criminal law) and specific topics (such as accident compensation and consideration). In addition, the Encyclopedia contains reports on a selected set of countries’ legal systems and, as a whole, presents an overview of the current state of affairs.
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Chapter 57: Product liability*

Geraint Howells


Legal actions for damage caused by defective products have a long pedigree and certainly emerged as a recognized area for litigation towards the end of the 19th century when mass manufactured products became available. Nevertheless, few areas of private law have been at the centre of more heated legal policy debates during the last halfcentury than product liability. This controversy has resulted from a retreat in the product liability context from the privity limitations of contract law (Prosser, 1960; 1966) and a reluctance to accept fault as a satisfactory basis for liability. Strict product liability is now the order of the day in most developed countries (Hodges, 1993; Howells, 1993; Kelly and Attree, 1996; Kellam, 1999). The amount written about product liability is a testament to lawyers’ interest in law reform, but, outside the US, this is not justified in terms of the practical importance of product liability as a dimension of legal practice (in the UK, e.g., major works include Clark, 1989; Howells, 2000; Miller and Goldberg, 2004; Stapleton, 1994). This contribution will chart the development of strict liability in the US, its adoption by the EC and the export of the EC model around the globe. We will note that for all the analysis it is still unclear what policy rationale underpins the introduction of strict product liability.

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