In a product liability context, Guatemalan law establishes certain administrative proceedings that may arise under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, and some of these proceedings may lead to the initiation of commercial arbitration (if both parties agree). However, liability arising from the sale, distribution, commercialisation or supply of defective or intrinsically dangerous products is almost invariably considered within the rules and proceedings of an ordinary trial.
Even where the act provides for administrative proceedings and preliminary measures, such as a settlement agreement between the parties, such measures are not pre-filing requirements. Thus, a claimant that has suffered damage attributable to a defective or dangerous product can file suit without going through preliminary measures.
As in most civil cases, including those concerning general liability for damages, proceedings in a product liability case are based on the filing and exchange of written memoranda. No open cross-examination procedure is available in order to examine experts, other witnesses or the parties or their representatives. Instead, pre-formulated written interrogatories involve questions being examined in advance and then approved or rejected, before being addressed by the judge. Documentary evidence is submitted by means of attachments to written memoranda that are filed with the court, and the opportunities for a judge to examine relevant objects and places in situ are relatively limited. A request can be made to the court to hear oral arguments in the form of closing statements, but this is rare.
Thus, although the law establishes procedures for resolving product liability issues that arise under the Consumer Protection Act, such disputes tend ultimately to be resolved under the rules and proceedings of an ordinary trial.
For further information on this topic please contact María Concepción Villeda by telephone (+502 222 368 68), fax (+502 236 625 40) or email ([email protected]).