In the UK, the law as it relates to product liability does not always seem clear.
Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the defence principle of "development risk defence". Under this principle a manufacturer may be able to make a successful defence of a claimant's action by proving that, as a result of the scientific knowledge at the time of a product's manufacture, no other similar manufacturer would have been able to reasonably spot the contested defect in a product were they producing it at the relevant time.
This principle of "development risk defence" has not been without its controversies. The European Commission even contested its legality only to find that the European Court of Justice upheld its place in law by finding that it was consistent with the relevant European Directive.
The European Court of Justice did, however, provide some useful clarification on "development risk defence" by saying it referred to the "objective state of scientific and technical knowledge of which the producer is presumed to have been informed".
In some cases a product may be considered to be defective even if its proper use does not result in injury to the consumer.
This will be the case if the product's packaging or accompanying literature does not clearly and unambiguously provide enough information regarding its correct use or if warnings pertaining to any dangers potentially posed by the product are not made explicit.
It is also interesting to note that even if a product fails in its specified purpose, it may not necessarily be considered as defective. This is perfectly illustrated in the case of(Richardson v LRC Products Limited (2000).
In this case the claimant attempted to claim compensation from a condom manufacturer after the use of one of its condoms had resulted in an unintended pregnancy. The judge, however, was unequivocal in his ruling, saying that it would be unreasonable of consumers to expect condoms to be a foolproof method of contraception, noting it was inevitable that they would sometimes fail.
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