Kainz v Pantherwerke AG (C-45/13, 16 January 2014); and

Allen & Others v Depuy International Limited [2014] EWHC 753 (QB)

Facts

In Kainz v Pantherwerke, a question arose as to which country's courts should have jurisdiction. The Claimant had purchased a bicycle from a retailer in Austria where he was resident. The bike had been manufactured in Germany, which was also where the Claimant had sustained injuries during a bike ride. The Claimant commenced proceedings in Austria against the German manufacturer. Relying on Article 5(3) of the Brussels Regulation ((EC) 44/2001), which provides that a person domiciled in a Member State may be sued “in the courts of the place where the harmful event occurred or may occur”, the Claimant argued that the Austrian Court had jurisdiction. Case law has established that this means either the place where the damage occurred, or "the place of the event giving rise to [it]". The Claimant argued that the "place of the event giving rise to the damage" was Austria, this being where the bicycle had been sold. The Defendant maintained that the relevant place was Germany since this was where the bicycle had been manufactured and originally brought into circulation. The Austrian Court referred the matter to the European Court of Justice (the "ECJ"). 

In Allen v Depuy, a slightly different question arose, this time under the Private International Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1995 ("the 1995 Act") - which country's law should apply to the claim? In this case, the Claimants alleged that they had suffered injury arising from the insertion of prosthetic hip implants manufactured by the Defendant in England. Although the Claimants were not domiciled in England, had been operated on outside of England, and had not suffered their alleged symptoms or injuries in England, they chose to issue proceedings here as this was where the Defendant was domiciled. Seeking to rely on the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (the "CPA"), the Claimants argued that English law was applicable as this was where the prostheses had been designed and manufactured, and where the Defendant was registered. The Defendant argued that the relevant “events giving rise to damage” were not simply the manufacture or supply of the goods, but rather whether any biological reaction to the implants led to the damage.

Decisions

In Kainz v Pantherwerke the ECJ held that the "place of the event giving rise to the damage" was where the product was manufactured, which in this case was Germany, and the German Courts should therefore have jurisdiction to hear the claim.

In Allen v Depuy, the English Court considered the general rule under the 1995 Act that the applicable law to a claim is the law of the country where the injury was sustained. This rule can be displaced where it is substantially more appropriate for the law of another country to apply, but in this case the judge found no good reason to do so, save in one case, where the marketing, implementation, and revision surgery all took place in New Zealand, in which case the applicable law was the law of New Zealand. In relation to the CPA, the Court said that even if the applicable law was English law, the Claimants would not have the benefit of the CPA, because "consumers who suffer damage outside the EEA and who have no connection with the EEA, and where marketing and supply of the defective product was outside the EEA are not within the scope of the CPA".

Comment

Kainz v Pantherwerke is unusual, in that the injuries were not sustained in the Claimant's own jurisdiction.  It is clear from this case that the "place of the event giving rise to the damage" will often be the place of a product's manufacture and therefore the courts of that country that will often have jurisdiction to hear the claim. However, whilst a court may have jurisdiction in a particular case, it does not necessarily follow that the laws of that country will apply. Allen v Depuy is a good reminder that applicable law will often depend on which country's laws the court considers most appropriate to the case. Overseas claimants may also find, after Allen v Depuy, that the CPA does not apply to them even if the applicable law is held to be English law.