What is the procedure for filing a product liability claim before the courts in your jurisdiction?
Private law disputes, including product liability claims, are tried exclusively by civil courts. District courts are competent to examine claims up to €20,000, one-member first-instance courts are competent to examine claims between €20,000 and €250,000 and three-member first-instance courts are competent to examine claims exceeding €250,000 (Articles 14 and 18 of the Greek Code of Civil Procedure).
Can the court issue interlocutory orders or judgments in product liability cases? If so, what rules and procedures apply?
Yes, Article 682(ff) of the Code of Civil Procedure (interim measures) applies in case of imminent danger (urgency) and risk of irreparable damage. However, jurisprudence holds that such cases are usually resolved through ordinary proceedings.
What pre-trial disclosure/discovery mechanisms are available in product liability cases, if any?
There are no ad hoc pre-trial discovery mechanisms with respect to product liability regulation. Each litigant has to disclose all supporting documentation with its pleadings and may request from the court to disclose the documentation in the possession of the opponent or a third party under certain conditions (Article 450(ff) of the Code of Civil Procedure and Articles 901 to 903 of the Civil Code).
However, injunctions proceedings are generally available to preserve evidence from risk of loss or impairment. Therefore, a special procedure is provided in the Code of Civil Procedure whereby a party may request the court to order the examination and preservation of evidence prior to the main proceedings (Article 348).
What evidence is accepted to support claims in product liability cases? What formalities apply to evidence submission?
If the court finds that the issues to be proven require special scientific qualifications, it may appoint experts who submit their reports at the time ordered by the court, adjourning the hearing for that purpose (Articles 368 to 392 of the Code of Civil Procedure). The parties may appoint technical advisers (one each) and also submit expert/technical reports (unlimited amount).
Under what circumstances will the court appoint an expert to assist it in examining the merits of the case? What rules and procedures apply?
The court has the power to appoint technical specialists to assist the judge and assess the evidence presented by the parties if the court finds that the issues to be proven require special scientific qualifications (Articles 368 to 392 of the Code of Civil Procedure). The experts may rely on the information provided in the case file or request clarifications from the parties or third parties.
Can the parties rely on expert witness testimony to support their claims? If so, what rules and procedures apply?
According to the new procedural rules, no oral hearing takes place (unless the court finds that there are extraordinary reasons to do so); witness testimonies are therefore provided through sworn affidavits.
The parties are also entitled to appoint one technical adviser each, who reads the expert report, submits his or her opinion and raises relevant questions to the court expert. The opinion of the court-appointed expert is not binding. The parties may submit to the court an unlimited number of expert/technical reports supporting their allegations. In practice, the reports of party-appointed experts are of lesser evidentiary value than those of the court-appointed ones.
Factual or expert witnesses appointed by the parties, may – instead of giving oral evidence before the court – give a sworn affidavit before a judge, a notary public or, if outside Greece, before a Greek consular authority (under Articles 421 to 424 of the Code of Civil Procedure). An affidavit from a previous case can be used as a relevant testimony, but an ad hoc testimony is given more weight according to the applicable rules of evidence.
Are class actions or any other collective proceedings available for product liability claims in your jurisdiction? If so, what is the procedure for their formation and what benefits do they afford claimants? Are class actions formed on an opt-in or an opt-out basis?
Class action proceedings, collective claims and class actions are not generally provided in Greek law. Article 10(1) of the Consumer Protection Law introduced an exceptional rule, providing that consumer associations (constituted as unions) aiming at protecting the rights and interests of consumers are entitled to represent consumers in court and file representative collective actions.
In particular, a consumer union of at least 500 members that has been duly registered in the Registry of Consumer Unions for at least one year may file an action of any kind for the protection of the general interests of consumers, provided that the illegal behaviour in question infringes the rights of at least 30 consumers, regardless of whether they are members and non-members of such consumer union.
Under this framework, consumer associations can bring four types of class action:
- actions to prevent and stop any supplier from behaving unlawfully;
- actions requesting reparation for moral damages. In such a case, the court, in order to award indemnification, takes into consideration for each amount the extent to which public order is harmed by the unlawful conduct, the size of the defendant supplier’s business, the annual turnover, as well as the needs for the general and specific prevention (of such behaviour);
- interim measures (injunctions) in order to secure consumers’ interests until an enforceable decision has been granted; and
- actions in order to recognise the right of restitution of the damages that the consumers had suffered due to the supplier’s unlawful conduct.
What rules and procedures govern appeals of court decisions?
Judgments issued by a first-instance court may be contested before the appellate court of jurisdiction. An appeal can be filed not only by the defeated party, but also by the successful party whose claims were only partially accepted by the court. A cassation may be filed against any appellate court decisions before the Supreme Court.
Statute of limitations
What is the statute of limitations for filing product liability claims?
Claims against the manufacturer, where a product has a defect, are time-barred for three years after the claimant became aware of the damage incurred, the defect and the identity of the manufacturer (Article 6(13) of the Consumer Protection Law) and 10 years after the release of the specific product, the rights of the party incurring the loss against the producer are written off.
However, where other statutes grant the consumer a more favourable statute of limitation, the latter prevails. In this respect, pursuant to the tort provisions of the Civil Code, a claim arising from an unlawful act (tort) will be prescribed at the lapse of five years from the time the injured party has had knowledge of the prejudice and of the person liable for compensation. The provisions for the sale of goods stipulate that the general limitation period within which a buyer, being a consumer or not, must exercise his or her rights from a contract for the sale of goods is two years. The service of a lawsuit interrupts the limitation period.
What is the typical duration of proceedings in product liability cases?
A court hearing should take place six to seven months after the filing of a lawsuit (Articles 215 and 237 of the Code of Civil Procedure, as amended by Law 4335/2015). A decision is issued on average six to eight months after the hearing, provided that the initial hearing is not adjourned.
Costs, fees and funding
Can the successful party to the litigation recover court and attorneys’ fees and any other related expenses from the losing party? If so, what rules and procedures apply?
The unsuccessful party is required to pay both court and legal costs. Court expenses are “only judicial and extrajudicial expenses that were necessary for the trial” and include:
- stamp duties;
- judicial revenue stamp duty;
- attorneys’ minimum fees set by the Greek Lawyers’ Code;
- witnesses’ and experts’ expenses; and
- the successful party’s travelling expenses so as to attend the hearing.
The expenses incurred due to the party’s own fault or excessive prudence are not recoverable (Article 189 of the Code of Civil Procedure).
The award of expenses in whole or in part, and payment by the unsuccessful party, is at the court’s discretion. Greek courts tend to award costs that are substantially lower than those actually incurred. However, depending on the success or failure of the various claims raised by each of the parties, the court may allocate costs between the parties. If there are more defendants and they lose the case, the court may either order them to pay an equal share of the claimant’s attorney and court fees or allocate such fees to the defendants proportionally, according to their liability. Further, the court may set off the attorney and court expenses between the parties if the interpretation of the rules applied is deemed to be particularly difficult.
What rules and restrictions (if any) govern contingency fee arrangements?
Contingency fees and other conditional arrangements are allowed between clients and lawyers (Article 60 of the Lawyers’ Code) and the maximum fee percentage agreed may not exceed 20% of the subject matter of the case (or 30% if several lawyers are involved.)
Is third-party litigation funding permitted in your jurisdiction? If so, do any rules or restrictions apply?
The notion of third-party funding is not very popular, but certain insurance companies offer legal expenses protection, thus covering the costs of litigation. There are currently no rules or restrictions on funders.
Is legal aid (ie, public funding) available to claimants in product liability cases? If so, what rules, restrictions and procedures apply?
Legal aid is available to low-income citizens under the provisions of Law 3226/2004 implementing Directive 2003/8/EC in conjunction with Article 194(ff) of the Code of Civil Procedure.
What rules and procedures govern the settlement of product liability cases?
Before filing a lawsuit, a party may refer to a justice of the peace in order for the latter to help settle the dispute (Αrticle 209(ff) of the Code of Civil Procedure). Alternatively, the litigants might reach a settlement (either certified by the court or not, as per the litigants’ choice – Αrticle 214A of the Code of Civil Procedure) until the issuance of a final decision, and provided that the substantive law requirements are met (ie, conformity to bonos mores or public policy, capability of entering into contracts, legal representation). A further option is to use judicial intervention – a permanent mechanism set up in each court of first instance where nominated judges assist the litigants to reach a settlement (Αrticle 214B of the Code of Civil Procedure). Also, the court may propose to litigants to recourse to judicial intervention, and on acceptance of the proposal, the case hearing is adjourned for three months (Αrticle 214C).
How common are settlements in product liability cases?
Parties seldom settle claims.
Alternative dispute resolution
Are any alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods required or advised before or in lieu of proceeding with litigation?
The parties may choose mediation or arbitration as an ADR method, even for actions pending before the court. Further, before initiating actions, they may voluntarily address the competent district court, asking for the latter’s intervention in order for the dispute to be settled at an early stage (with limited applicability) or recourse to judicial intervention.
Specifically, Ministerial Decision 70330/30/06/2015 implemented the ADR Directive (2013/11/EU) and set supplementary rules for the application of the ΑDR Regulation (524/2014). Registered ADR entities under the ministerial decision include:
- the Consumer Ombudsman, the key ADR authority for consumers;
- the (sectoral) Ombudsman for Banking and Investment Services (and part of FIN-NET for credit/financial trans-boundary disputes);
- ADR Point, a private organisation; and
- the European Institute for Conflict Resolution.
In addition, the following bodies exist for ADR:
- the Committees for Friendly Settlement;
- the European Consumer Centre of Greece;
- the SOLVIT network; and
- the Greek Ombudsman.
As regards settlements of claims, a party may refer to a district court judge before the filing of a lawsuit for the latter’s intervention in order to try and obtain a settlement (Article 209(ff) of the Code of Civil Procedure).
Another option is a settlement between litigants until the issuance of a final decision, provided that the substantive law requirements are met. More specifically, the parties need:
- to conform to bonos mores or public policy/order in general;
- to be capable of entering into contracts; and
- to be legitimately represented (in case of companies by their legal representatives, and in case of minors by their parents or the person who has power to represent them). Special permission is required to be granted by the court where a minor waives any claims by settling them.
How commonly is ADR used in relation to product liability cases in your jurisdiction?
ADR is seldom used to settle product liability cases.