Until recently, product liability could only be based on general tort and contract law principles. These traditional grounds, which are still highly relevant, have been complemented by a new law of February 25, 1991 implementing the European Community Directive on product liability.

The new law imposes a liability under which the injured person no longer has to provide evidence of fault on the part of the producer. It merely has to demonstrate the existence of damage, a defect in the product, and the causal link between the defect and the damage.

The term "producer" includes the manufacturer in general, as well as the importer and the distributor of the product, who may be held liable if the manufacturer cannot be identified.

The producer is held liable if the product is deemed defective. All circumstances are taken into account, such as the presentation of the product, its normal foreseeable use and the time when it was put into circulation.

The producer may not be held liable in certain cases, e.g. when, at the time the product was put into circulation, the defect did not exist, or the state of scientific and technical knowledge was not such as to enable the existence of the defect to be discovered.

Compensation can be obtained under the law for damage caused to (i) persons and (ii) property amounting to more than BEF 22,500, provided that the damaged property was intended for private use. Damages to the defective product itself do not give rise to compensation.

The content of this article is intended to provide general information on the subject matter. It is therefore not a substitute for specialist advice.

De Bandt, van Hecke & Lagae - Brussels. (32-2) 501.94.06.