Overview

The Court of Appeal held that the claimant did not have to plead and prove a specific design or manufacturing defect for there to be a defect within the meaning of section 3 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (“CPA”).

Facts

Mr Baker bought one of the Defendant’s motorcycles second hand from a dealer. It was two years old and had been fully serviced with a low mileage. A year after the purchase Mr Baker, who was an experienced motorcyclist, was riding the motorcycle when the brakes failed causing him to be thrown from the motorcycle and sustain severe personal injuries.

Mr Baker made a product liability claim against KTM, as the manufacturer of the motorcycle, alleging that the injuries were caused by a defect in the motorcycle contrary to the CPA. The manufacturer contended that there was no mechanical issue and that the accident had been caused by a failure to maintain the motorcycle.

At first instance, the court upheld Mr Baker's claim. Mr Baker had regularly maintained the motorcycle and, after hearing expert evidence, the court found that galvanic corrosion which had occurred "as a result of a design defect combined with faulty construction or the use of faulty or inappropriate materials" was the probable cause of the brakes seizing.

The appeal

KTM appealed on the basis that Mr Baker had failed to show that there was a particular feature of the design or manufacture of the braking system which led to galvanic corrosion.

Following the ruling in Ide v ATB Sales Ltd [2008] EWCA Civ 424, the Court of Appeal held that there was no need for Mr Baker to plead a specific defect or to show how a defect was caused; it was sufficient to show there was a defect, which caused the injury.

What this means for you

These cases are a reminder that section 3 of the CPA imposes strict liability for damage or injury caused by a defective product (subject to the statutory defences), and it is not necessary for a claimant to prove how the defect arose. A claimant may be able establish a defect through inference, by identifying the defect and then eliminating alternative explanations for the accident.

Baker illustrates how the CPA's strict liability regime can help a claimant to succeed. In this case the defective product: (i) was purchased second hand; and (ii) was susceptible to corrosion due to a design defect combined with faulty construction or the use of inappropriate or faulty materials, even though the corrosion itself was not present at manufacture.