Product Liability

We are currently acting for a hip manufacturer in over a thousand proceedings being brought against it in the context of a voluntary worldwide recall of two of its products. We also act for pharmaceutical companies in cases concerning narcolepsy, malaria, phocomelia and other conditions and we act for defendants in vehicles, machinery and other products claims.

Our expertise:

We have acted in almost every significant product liability case in Ireland over the past 20 years, including tobacco, blood, vaccines, implanted metal hips, other pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Product liability cases are a prominent part of the Irish litigation landscape. One reason for this is that Irish claimants often bring cases close to, or to trial, whereas similar claims in other jurisdictions are abandoned or settled at an earlier stage. The Irish courts ensure that a claimant who alleges serious injuries gets his or her "day in court". A further factor is that even though the “loser pays” principle applies in Irish litigation, in practice many judges will forebear from awarding costs against an unsuccessful plaintiff in personal injuries cases.

Irish documentary discovery rules are quite similar to those in the United States, although Irish judges in most cases sit without a jury and exemplary damages are rarely awarded. There are no depositions in Irish cases but there is compulsory exchange of written experts’ reports before trial.

Liability is usually evaluated on the basis of statutory legislation, common law negligence principles, and occasionally on EU 'strict liability' rules, which provide for liability where the plaintiff proves causation and where the producer has been unable to prove a state of the art defence.  

The Irish courts award quite high damages when compared with England and Wales. Damages for pain and suffering for loss of an eye in Ireland may be €125,000, for example, and damages for care costs and expenses in catastrophic injuries cases reflect the high cost of long term care in Ireland.  

Welcome changes to court rules and practices over the past decade have made it harder for claimants to delay in prosecuting claims, or to make wholly unmeritorious claims.

Key areas:  

  • Many Irish product liability cases are large tort actions, often with international dimensions where we work with clients and law firms from other jurisdictions, although we also act for numerous local businesses too. The firm combines experience in handling such complex litigation with decades of experience in personal injuries litigation
  • In defending products, our lawyers work with epidemiologists, medical doctors, toxicologists, engineers and other experts. Ireland has a bifurcated legal profession so we choose and work with the most suitable trial lawyers (barristers) in handling our clients' cases. We work closely with insurers where the client is insured, whilst ensuring that the insured client's interests, financial and reputational, are borne carefully in mind  
  • We understand too that product liability cases may have important reputational, and not just financial, implications for businesses, their employees and their products  
  • The firm advises clients on product safety and have handled product recalls in many product areas. Our experience includes acting in what was probably Ireland's largest and most complex product recall ever. We communicate with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the Health Products Regulatory Authority, other regulators, experts and, as necessary, the media in the course of product recalls  
  • The firm represents clients in public and regulatory inquiries about products, including at present an inquiry into the conduct of vaccine trials in mother and baby institutions in the past
  • We also act in environmental and pollution claims

Key highlights include advising:

  • DePuy International Limited, a large multinational manufacturer of orthopaedic products, which is facing over 1,300 claims in Ireland arising from a voluntary recall of its metal-on-metal hip replacement device which was previously sold across the world
  • GlaxoSmithKline in respect of Pandemrix product liability claims and in respect of the Mother & Child Homes Investigation, in which the inquiry will examine the trialling of some of our client’s drugs in Irish childrens’ homes in the past
  • Grunenthal, a German pharmaceutical company, in respect of the world-wide resurgence of claims being brought in Australia, USA, the UK, Ireland and Spain by persons allegedly injured by the thalidomide drug 50 years ago, where the plaintiffs allege concealment, fraud and other issues in seeking to overcome statute of limitations, delay and other defences

Key contacts

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