Ground-breaking ruling on the jurisdiction over defective products
April 8, 2021
On the 24th of March 2021, the Court of Appeal in Lublin issued a ground-breaking ruling in favour of our Client.
The case concerned defective medical implant placed into the claimant’s body in Great Britain. The claimant applied for compensation for the mental and physical suffering she experienced as a result of fitting a defective medical device, which led to poisoning of her body with chromium and cobalt. Soon after the surgery, claimant’s health condition worsened and eventually led to an acute myeloid leukaemia with myelodysplastic syndrome.
Although the main surgery and the re-surgery took place in the United Kingdom and the first symptoms also occurred there, in our view the damage was fully revealed when the claimant returned to Poland and was correctly diagnosed in a Polish hospital. At the moment of lodging the claim against the British manufacturer of the faulty implant, the claimant was in such a physical condition that initiating of a court proceedings in Poland already presented a great challenge, while it was practically impossible for the claimant to participate in a court proceeding in Great Britain.
The initial dispute arose over the interpretation of the article 7(2) of the Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters concerning the definition of the place where the harmful event occurred or may occur.
The court of first instance dismissed the claim on the ground of lack of jurisdiction of Polish courts, applying the European Court of Justice (‘ECJ’) judicature, in particular verdict in the case C-45/13 Andreas Kainz vs. Pantherwerke AG. The ECJ stated that in an action seeking to establish the producer’s liability for a defective product, the place where the event giving rise to the damage occurred is the place where the product was manufactured. On the basis of the EU law and above-mentioned judgment, the court of first instance recognized the jurisdiction of a British court.
We have successfully lodged a complaint against the first instance judgment. The Court of Appeal shared our view and revoked decision of the first instance court.
First and foremost, the Court of Appeal pointed out that the court of first instance did not take into account the fact that the place of the event giving rise to the damage and the place of the damage itself has been distinguished in the ECJ jurisprudence. Both such places correspond to the concept of a place where the event causing the damage occurred.
In the case at hand, the type and extent of the damage materialized in the territory of Poland, when the claimant was diagnosed with a key disease attributed to the harmful effects of the prosthesis produced by the defendant. The scope of the damage to the health of the claimant and the link between this damage and the defective endoprosthesis was therefore fully revealed in Poland, not Great Britain.
Furthermore, the Court of Appeal acknowledged that the court of first instance applied directly and automatically law of the European Union, completely ignoring the fact that Great Britain left the EU structures, which has significant consequences in the legal sphere.