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Summary of the Judgment
Summary of the Judgment
Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 10 January 2006.
Skov Æg v Bilka Lavprisvarehus A/S and Bilka Lavprisvarehus A/S v Jette Mikkelsen and Michael Due Nielsen.
Reference for a preliminary ruling: Vestre Landsret - Denmark.
Directive 85/374/EEC - Liability for defective products - Liability of the supplier of a defective product.
1. Approximation of laws – Liability for defective products – Directive 85/374
(Council Directive 85/374, Arts 1 and 3)
2. Approximation of laws – Liability for defective products – Directive 85/374
(Council Directive 85/374, Art. 13)
3. Preliminary rulings – Interpretation – Temporal effects of judgments by way of interpretation
(Art. 234 EC)
1. Directive 85/374 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning liability for defective products must be interpreted as precluding a national rule under which the supplier is answerable, beyond the cases listed exhaustively in Article 3(3) of that directive, for the no-fault liability which the directive establishes and imposes on the producer.
Since that directive seeks to achieve complete harmonisation in the matters regulated by it, its determination in Articles 1 and 3 of the class of persons liable must be regarded as exhaustive. Consequently, since Article 3(3) of the directive provides for the supplier to be liable only in the case where the producer cannot be identified, a national rule under which the supplier is answerable directly to injured persons for defects in a product extends that class of persons liable.
(see paras 33-34, 37, 45, operative part)
2. Directive 85/374 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning liability for defective products must be interpreted as not precluding a national rule under which the supplier is answerable without restriction for the producer’s fault-based liability, since, in accordance with Article 13 of the directive, the system of rules put in place by the directive does not preclude the application of other systems of contractual or non-contractual liability based on other grounds, such as fault or a warranty in respect of latent defects.
(see paras 47-48, operative part)
3. It is only exceptionally that the Court may, in application of the general principle of legal certainty inherent in the Community legal order, be moved to restrict for any person concerned the opportunity of relying on a provision which it has interpreted with a view to calling in question legal relationships established in good faith. Two essential criteria must be fulfilled before such a limitation can be imposed, namely that those concerned should have acted in good faith and that there should be a risk of serious difficulties.
Where national legislation, contrary to what is laid down by Directive 85/374 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States concerning liability for defective products, provides for the producer’s no-fault liability to be transferred to the supplier, the fact that that legal system makes use of the mechanism of a right of recourse by which a supplier who has compensated an injured person for damage caused by a defective product steps into his rights against the producer rules out the possibility of any interference with legal certainty. In those circumstances, the Community judicature cannot grant an application for limitation of the temporal effects of its judgment giving a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of that directive.
(see paras 51-53)