Product liability in Lithuania
When a product released to the market causes injuries or damages, the first task of claimant is to determine a guilty party. Legislation of different countries may hold different parties responsible, hence sometimes it is hard to define which member of the market chain shall take the responsibility. Knowledge of product liability norms is useful not only for the injured party but also for the producer or supplier of the products, so that the latter could take necessary precautions. In this article you will find legislation regarding product liability in Lithuania.
Who is held liable?
According to the Art. 6.292 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter – Civil Code) a producer or a supplier of services is obliged to compensate for damage caused by defective products or defective services. In this case a producer means the manufacturer of a finished product, a component part of a product or of raw materials, the supplier of services or any other person who by marking the product (services) with his name, trade mark or any other distinctive sign indicates himself as a manufacturer (supplier of services).
It shall be noted that any person who in effectuation of his commercial activity imports into the territory of the states of the European Economic Area product with the aim of selling, leasing or distributing it in any other way shall be held liable as a producer in case the product is defective.
In the event where it is impossible to identify the producer of a product, any person involved in the sale of the product shall be regarded as producer unless he provides information about the producer or the supplier of the product. This rule shall also apply in the cases where a product was imported into the Republic of Lithuania without the importer being indicated, though the producer of the imported product is known.
According to the provisions of the Art. 6.296 of the Civil Code if the damage was caused by the actions performed by several persons e.g. the producer of a defective product and a person who incorporates the defective product into another product, all the subjects shall be held solitarily liable.
The rules indicated above shall apply only where the products (services) are obtained for the purposes of consumption but not for commercial purposes.
Definition of product or service
When it comes to product liability, a product shall mean a movable object (property), including primary agricultural products and game, as well as any movable object (property) incorporated into another movable or immovable object. In addition to that, electricity shall also be regarded as a product (Art. 6.293 of the Civil Code).
A service shall mean any activity by which a concrete material or non-material need of a consumer is being satisfied, with the exception of health services, legal services, education services, heating, gas and water supply, waste water disposal and transport services.
Definition of defectiveness
A product or service shall be considered defective if it does not conform to the safety requirements which a consumer could reasonably expect thereof. The Art. 6.294 of the Civil Code establishes criteria which shall be used to determine whether a product (service) is defective:
- Characteristics of a product or service provided;
- Whether a product or service may be used for its intended purpose;
- A moment when a product was put into circulation or a service was provided;
- Defects of the composition of a product (service), or any other defects thereof;
- Other relevant circumstances.
It is important to stress that a product cannot be considered of defective quality for the sole reason that a better product has subsequently been put into circulation.
Damage shall be compensated if the aggrieved person proves the occurrence of damage, existence of defects in the product (service) and the causal link between the defects and the damages.
Exemption from liability
The producer shall be exempted from liability if he proves one of the following conditions:
- The product was not put into circulation by the produces;
- The product was not of inferior quality at the time when it was put into circulation, or that its quality deteriorated later;
- The product was manufactured not for the purposes of sale, lease or any other form of commercial distribution, nor was it manufactured or distributed in the course of the producer’s business activities;
- The defect of quality of the product resulted from the observance of mandatory rules established by the corresponding institutions of the State;
- At the time when the product was put into circulation, the level of scientific and technical knowledge was not sufficient to identify the defect of quality;
- The product manufactured by the producer was incorporated into another product and the damage occurred because of the construction of the other product, or because of the instructions of use provided by the producer of the final product.
Even though the above mentioned conditions might exempt the producer from liability, it shall be noted that the liability of the producer shall not be reduced if the damage has been caused by both the defectiveness of the product and by the conduct (active or passive actions) of a third person.
According to the provisions of the Art. 6.297 of the Civil Code, in the event where the aggrieved person himself or the person who has the right to claim damages, contribute to the damages or increase the damages by their actions, the amount of damages subject to compensation may be reduced or the recovery of the damage may be excluded at all, taking into account all the circumstances of the case.
Actions for compensation of damages may be brought up against the producer within 3 years from the day the aggrieved person became (should have become) aware of the damages, the defects of the product and the identity of the producer.
Jovita Valatkaite, attorney at law of the Gencs Valters Law Firm in Vilnius
Practising in fields of Consumer Rights in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia
T: +370 52 61 10 00
F: +370 52 61 11 00