GCSE Law - Consumer Rights and Responsibilities - Chapter 19

Notes on Chapter 19 of 'OCR LAW for GCSE' with cases.

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19.1. Product liability and negligence
There are some old examples of imposing liability;
o Dixon v Bell (1816) - It was accepted that there was liability for injuries caused by a defective
gun when it went off as someone handled it;
Claims for defective/dangerous goods only used to be accepted if there was a contract;
Later, some claims were possible where there was a contract but only where the seller knew of the
defects and gave no warning;
The first acceptance for liability in negligence for defective goods was Lord Atkin's judgement in
Donoghue v Stevenson (1932).
19.1.1. The basis of liability for defective products in negligence
Lord Atkin identified that:
A manufacturer owes a duty to the consumer to take reasonable care where:
He sells products the form that he intends them to reach the ultimate consumer
with no reasonable possibility of intermediate examination
And with the knowledge that the absence of care could endanger the consumer;
So, in order to claim successfully in negligence:
The goods must have reached the consumer as intended with no intermediate
inspection (i.e. the goods are sealed);
There is no chance of examination between these two stages (e.g. the snail was in an
opaque bottle);
The manufacturer knows that little care would endanger the consumer.
The scope of liability:
In negligence, the claim is nothing to do with the quality of the goods, in other words: for
replacement goods
But it is for compensation for the damage caused by the goods;
Product liability now covers many situations:
Anything manufactured, e.g. Grant v Australian Knitting mills (1936);
Defective motor cars, e.g. Herschtal v Stewart and Arden Ltd (1940);
Defects in the house, e.g. Batty v Metropolitan Property Realisations Ltd (1978);
Defective lifts causing injury, e.g. Haseldine v Daw Ltd (1941);
Computer software, e.g. St Albans City and District Council v International Computers
Ltd (1996).
19.1.3. People who can be sued (potential defendants)
Potential defendants can be:
Wholesalers (the people that shopkeepers buy their goods from) ­ Watson v
Buckley, Osborne Garrett & Co Ltd (1940) ­ a wholesaler failed to test hair dye which
was defective and caused damage;

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Retailers (shopkeepers) ­ Kubach v Hollands (1937) ­ a retailer failed to follow
instructions on testing a product before labelling it, which caused damage;
Suppliers of goods (other possible suppliers, e.g.…read more

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Failing to do anything about a known fault ­ Walton v British Leyland (1978) ­ a
manufacturer failed to recall cars with a defect once it had been found so he was
liable for negligence;
Negligence is fault-based, so the manufacturer must prove fault of another;
This can make it hard for consumers to prove as there is little knowledge of what the manufacturer
In some cases, the consumer can make the manufacturer prove that he was not negligent.…read more

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All that the consumer needs to prove is the defect in the goods, the damage caused
and that the damage was actually caused by this defect;
A number of defences to protect innocent producers ­ e.g. due diligence.
19.3.…read more

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Defects covered by the Act
Defect is defined in s 3(1):
`If the safety of the product is not such as persons generally are entitled to expect, taking into
account all the circumstances...…read more


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