UK: Hufford & Samsung - A Hidden Gem For Product Liability Claimants?

Last Updated: 25 February 2015
Article by Ian J Plumley

The Technology & Construction Court's decision in Hufford v. Samsung Electronics (UK) Ltd was handed down in September 2014 to little or no fanfare. However, it appears to confirm the approach to be adopted in determining the precision with which a claimant relying on the Consumer Protection Act 1987 must prove the nature of a defect in a product alleged to have caused damage.

Ide and Hufford clearly reflect a rebalancing of the law in favour of injured claimants and defendant producers/suppliers and their lawyers should beware any (mis)placed reliance on the pre-Ide authorities.

The judgment sets out a seven-stage process for what must be proven and indicates that the Court of Appeal ruling in Ide v. ATB Sales & Lexus Financial Services v. Russell [2008] is accepted as clarifying this area of the law.

The central issue in Hufford was whether the appliance was defective within the meaning of section 3 of CPA 1987, which provides that:

"...there is a defect in a product for the purposes of this Part if the safety of the product is not such as persons generally are entitled to expect..."

The CPA 1987 (implementing the 1985 Product Liability Directive) does not detail the precision with which a claimant must prove the nature of the defect relied upon.  Article 4 of the Directive is similarly vague: "The injured person shall be required to prove the damage, the defect and the causal relationship between defect and damage".  While the burden of proof rests with the claimant, the Directive unhelpfully gives no guidance on the standard of proof that the claimant must meet.

However, the pre-Ide cases, including Richardson v. LRC Products [2000] (concerning a burst condom) and Foster v. Biosil (2000) (concerning a ruptured breast implant), suggested that a claim must fail if a claimant cannot show the precise nature of the defect relied upon (in both cases it was found that the failures could have resulted from alternative causes rather than the specifically alleged defect).  Both Richardson and Foster had long been criticised for introducing or requiring a level of evidential enquiry more typically expected in a negligence claim than a strict liability regime.  That was clearly to the benefit of defendant producers and suppliers.

The approach was revisited in Ide where the Court of Appeal had to consider the proper approach to be taken in determining proof of causation under the common law where alternative mechanisms of causation were put before the court.  While the primary concern was not the CPA 1987, Thomas LJ held that it was unnecessary in a claim under the Act to ascertain the precise cause of a defect at all but simply to determine whether the loss was caused by the defect and not by another cause.

The issue was again considered in Hufford, which involved a claim under the CPA 1987 for damage caused to property when a fridge-freezer caught fire.  The TCC determined there were seven points that must be considered in deciding what matters have to be proved, by whom, and how:

  • The court must ask whether the case is a "closed list" as regards the cause of damage.  It was in Hufford since only two causes of fire were contended:
    • The claimant's case was that the fridge-freezer caught fire in its normal use, such that it was "not such as persons generally are entitled to expect" and there was a defect.  The claimant could not say exactly how the fire had begun, but asserted that it originated inside the appliance, in the rear machinery compartment.
    • The defendant contended that the fire originated outside the appliance, in some combustible material, but that in any event the claimant had to prove with a reasonable degree of specificity the respect in which the product was defective, and had failed to do so.
  • The court must have regard to all the circumstances of, and the evidence adduced in, the case (Milton Keynes BC v. Nulty [2013])
  • Following Ide, a claimant does not have to specify or identify with accuracy or precision the defect in the product he seeks to establish, and therefore prove.  It is sufficient for a claimant to prove the existence of a defect in broad or general terms, such as "a defect in the electrics of the Lexus (motor car)" (as was the case in Ide).
  • The court should not examine rival arguments on causation, and simply find that the one it prefers (whether because it is the more probable or the least improbable) has been proved on the balance of probabilities to be the cause of the subject incident or peril (Milton Keynes BC v. Nulty).
  • The burden of proof remains on the claimant throughout.  It is for the claimant to prove the existence of a defect (albeit unspecified), in the product, and that such unspecified defect caused the subject incident or peril.
  • There is no burden of proof on the defendant.  The defendant may raise, or seek to prove, an alternative cause, but he does not have to prove that it was the cause of the subject incident or peril.  The ultimate question remains whether the claimant has proved, on the balance of probabilities, that the cause for which he contends was the cause of the subject incident or peril.
  • While the court's analysis will involve consideration of causation, namely that the defect identified and proved by the claimant was indeed the cause of the subject incident or peril, and thus of the loss which was sustained, the court is not required to embark upon a detailed analysis of precisely how the subject incident or peril was caused (Ide v. ATB Sales).

Ide and Hufford clearly reflect a rebalancing of the law in favour of injured claimants and defendant producers/suppliers and their lawyers should beware any (mis)placed reliance on the pre-Ide authorities.  While Ide confined itself to asserting that a claimant need not show the cause of a defect in order to succeed in a CPA 1987 claim, Hufford goes further in clarifying that it is not necessary for a claimant to establish the identity of the defect with any degree of precision.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.