The responsibility for defective products in Israel and France

The responsibility for defective products in Israel and France

August 7, 2008

Our office represents a number of Israeli parties that export goods to the European market, including France. In such cases, a question arises regarding the rules applicable to defective products in the destination country, as the exporting company naturally exposes itself to a lawsuit in that country. It goes without saying that the rules applicable to the specific product must be checked and this overview should not be sufficient, however, as a lawyer in France, I will list below a number of general principles for comparing Israeli and French law on the subject - laws that are essentially similar.

The protection laws against defective products are mainly intended to give the customer injured by a defective product the possibility to sue the manufacturer without the need to prove negligence on the part of the negligent. A manufacturer is defined in both laws as engaged for commercial purposes in the production of products or their assembly, but extends the applicability of the liability also to those who present themselves as the manufacturer of a product, importer and supplier of a product when the manufacturer or importer cannot be identified.

A defect in the product can be both a defect in the product and a warning on the instructions for handling or using the product that was not given or was given in an inappropriate manner. In view of the increased responsibility of the manufacturer, Israeli law limits itself to bodily injuries only. French law, on the other hand, applies to both bodily injury and property damage and thus creates a much broader liability.

The law states in principle that a manufacturer must compensate for damage caused by a product and defines a product including a component and packaging of the product. The Israeli law also extends this to a product connected to real estate and a building, to which the French law does not apply. However, French law defines a product as including livestock and agricultural produce, which is not clear if Israeli law applies to them.

The law establishes certain and limited defenses that the manufacturer can raise, including defects created after the product left his custody, a claim that the product left his custody against his will, an objective inability (due to the level of scientific and technological development at the time) of the manufacturer when the product left his control to know that in terms of design the product did not meet at a reasonable level of safety and the claim of risking the victim's will. The protection of voluntary endangerment does not apply in Israel when the victim is under the age of 12, but a similar proviso does not exist under the French dry law.

Another difference between the laws is that Israeli law does not allow the manufacturer to condition his liability. French law, on the other hand, does, as mentioned, apply the law to property damage as well, but allows for conditions to be set on liability for property damage.

Both Israeli law and French law establish a statute of limitations for a claim against a manufacturer - a claim that was not filed within 3 years after the claimant became aware of the damage and defect is void, and in any case no more than 10 years from the end of the year in which the product left the manufacturer's control.

It is important to note that international trade has many additional legal aspects and it is important to consult a lawyer who specializes in the field, as the correct construction of the legal infrastructure may save many legal proceedings or legal obstacles.