Place of Jurisdiction – EU-Law – Brussels I Regulation – Product liability (Austria /Germany)
The European Court of Justice (EuGH) has ruled in its judgement of January 16, 2014 (C- 45/13) that the place of the event causing the damage within the meaning of Art. 5 No. 3 Brussels I Regulation constituted the place where the respective (defective) product was made. The place of the event causing the damage was not the place where the product was handed over to the end user or to the reseller.
Purchase of a bicycle by a German in Austria Accident resulting from defects in Germany Malicious action at product liability place of production
The purchaser of a bicycle had an accident. The bicycle was produced in Germany. The purchaser/ plaintiff bought it at an Austrian distributor in Austria. The bicycle tour, which resulted in the accident, took place in Germany.
The instances called upon in Austria have deemed themselves internationally not competent. The Oberste Gerichtshof in Austria has submitted the question to the European Court of Justice (EuGH) for a preliminary ruling. Decisive for the dispute was the norm of Art. 5 No. 3 of the so-called Brussels I Regulation: in the case of an unlawful act the plaintiff is entitled to take legal action before the court of that place where the damaging event occurred. The European Court of Justice (EuGH), therefore, had to rule on the question as to which was the place of the event causing the damage in the case of product liability. In its judgement the European Court of Justice (EuGH) has ruled, that with respect to product liability it were the place where the product had been produced. It were irrelevant at which place the product had been passed on to the end user or to the reseller.
Practical considerations Significance of the preliminary ruling
According to that ruling, it was not the Austrian court (registered office of the seller) but the German court (registered office of the German producer of the bicycle) that was competent. According to Art. 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (AEUV) the European Court of Justice (EuGH) rules upon the submission or invocation of a member state by means of a so-called preliminary ruling, amongst other things, on the interpretation of the legal acts of the Union's institutions (here: Brussels I Regulation). The rulings of the European Court of Justice (EuGH) are of a binding nature for the courts of the member states. Preliminary ruling proceedings before the European Court of Justice (EuGH) are intended to ensure the uniformity of the rulings of the courts of the member states with respect to the so-called primary and secondary law of the European Union. Since according to the Oberste Gerichtshof Austria it was not possible to take a clear answer from Art. 5 No. 3 of the Brussels I Regulation, it saw itself compelled to invoke the European Court of Justice (EuGH) when inititating preliminary ruling proceedings.
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