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
Purchase of a bicycle by a German in Austria Accident resulting
from defects in Germany Malicious action at product liability place
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
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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