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What is the procedure for filing a product liability claim before the courts in your jurisdiction?
A distinction must be made between a claimant who is not a consumer and a claimant who is a consumer. In the first case, the general courts have jurisdiction. In the second case:
- where the amount of the dispute (claim, damage or product value) is less than TL4,570 (approximately €870), the county consumer arbitration panels have jurisdiction;
- where the amount of the dispute is between TL4,570 and TL6,860, the province consumer arbitration panels have jurisdiction; and
- where the amount of the dispute is over TL6,860, the consumer courts have jurisdiction.
According to the Code of Civil Procedures (6100), the parties need not be represented by an attorney in order to file a case. In addition, consumers are exempt from paying the court fee (regulated under the Charges Law (492)); they must pay only for the court mail expenses and expert expenses, totalling around €200.
Can the court issue interlocutory orders or judgments in product liability cases? If so, what rules and procedures apply?
The Code of Civil Procedures applies in the consumer courts and general courts that have jurisdiction over product liability cases. Before filing a case under the code, any of the parties may request a preliminary injunction. This injunction may be in the form of the payment of a certain guarantee in cash from the other party or the performance or non-performance of an action. The claimant may request a guarantee amounting to 15% of the disputed amount, although the court, at its own discretion, may deem this guarantee unnecessary.
What pre-trial disclosure/discovery mechanisms are available in product liability cases, if any?
In cases relating to product liability, either party may request a declaratory injunction for evidence from the courts before the case on the merits where there is a risk that evidence may be destroyed, lost or damaged. If granted, the injunction will constitute evidence and a basis for the case to be filed in the future.
In cases relating to product safety, the criminal courts of peace and the public prosecutor's office may order the seizure or withdrawal from the market of the product where the product presents a risk of damage to human health or the environment.
What evidence is accepted to support claims in product liability cases? What formalities apply to evidence submission?
According to the Code of Civil Procedures, evidence must be submitted to the other party at the time of filing the lawsuit. Evidence may be in the form of expert examination, witnesses, discovery, and, in some cases, oaths. Each piece of evidence must be clearly linked to a material fact. The evidence presented by the parties binds the courts, in compliance with general private law. The courts do not conduct ex officio examinations, except in product safety cases triggering criminal liability; in such cases, the prosecutor's office and the courts can conduct ex officio examinations.
Under what circumstances will the court appoint an expert to assist it in examining the merits of the case? What rules and procedures apply?
According to the Code of Civil Procedures, expert examination and discovery are the main types of evidence that the parties may rely on. However, such evidence must be submitted or requested at the beginning of the proceedings. The court may not issue an ex officio order in this regard. If the expert examination must be conducted at the scene of the incident, the court may order discovery. If deemed necessary, the court may invite experts to the court, and the court and the parties may question them on their field of expertise. Where criminal liability is triggered in product safety cases, the public prosecutor's office or the criminal courts may order expert examination or discovery at any time.
Can the parties rely on expert witness testimony to support their claims? If so, what rules and procedures apply?
According to the Code of Civil Procedures, the parties may submit expert opinions to the court. However, these are not considered technical evidence. The court takes them into account as an annex to the main petition. The parties may submit expert opinions in writing or orally at any stage of the proceedings.
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?
Under consumer law, the Ministry of Customs and Commerce and consumer organisations are entitled to file class actions, but generally under Turkish law, no class actions are formed on an opt-in or opt-out basis.
What rules and procedures govern appeals of court decisions?
According to the Code of Civil Procedures, an appeal may be filed before the regional courts of justice against final decisions and dismissals or grants of preliminary injunctions and preliminary attachments, as well as any opposition decisions. No appeal can be made against decisions involving an amount of TL3,560 or less. However, an appeal is always possible, regardless of amount or value, against decisions issued in non-material damages cases.
Where allowed, appeals against the decisions of the civil chambers of the regional courts of justice and the decisions for revocation of arbitrator decisions must be filed within two weeks of delivery of the decision. The decisions of the regional courts of justice involving an amount of TL47,530 or less are also final.
That said, extraordinary legal remedies are available against final or unappealable decisions where such decisions are deemed not to comply with the applicable law.
Statute of limitations
What is the statute of limitations for filing product liability claims?
While the administrative fines provided for in the Law on the Preparation and Application of Technical Literature for Products (4703) may be imposed by authorised institutions, a person who has suffered a material or non-material damage, or bodily injury may claim these amounts:
- within two years of the date of becoming aware of the damage in accordance with the Code of Obligations (6098) and indemnification obligation; and
- in any case, within 10 years of the start of the action causing damages.
Where the damage has arisen from an action for which criminal law proposes a longer statute of limitations, the longer statute of limitations shall apply.
Within the framework of the Law on Consumers’ Protection (6502), unless a longer period is specified in the law or the contract between the parties, liability from a defective product is subject to a two-year statute of limitations, starting from the date of delivery of the goods to the consumer, even if the defect emerges subsequently. Where the defect has been hidden through gross negligence or fraud, the statute of limitations does not apply. Where the defect constitutes a crime under the Criminal Code, the statute of limitations is:
- 30 years for crimes requiring life imprisonment without parole;
- 25 years for crimes requiring life imprisonment;
- 20 years for crimes requiring at least 20 years’ imprisonment;
- 15 years for crimes requiring five to 20 years’ imprisonment; and
- eight years for crimes requiring no more than five years’ imprisonment or a judicial fine.
What is the typical duration of proceedings in product liability cases?
While cases before the consumer courts may take 12 to 18 months, they may take longer in the general and criminal courts, depending on the courts’ workload. The timeframe before arbitration panels may reach 12 months.
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?
In product liability cases, the Ministry of Customs and Commerce pays for the service and expert fees when the consumer arbitrator panels rule against the consumer. Where the panels find in favour of the consumer, the losing party pays the service and expert fees in accordance with the Law on Collection Procedure of Public Receivables (6183); such fees are recorded as revenue to the budget. Where a consumer court overturns such a decision on appeal, the consumer pays attorneys’ fees according to a tariff set out in the Law on Consumers’ Protection (6502), as well as trial expenses. Where a consumer court upholds a decision in favour of the consumer, the losing party is ordered to pay trial expenses and, if the consumer is represented by an attorney, attorneys' fees according to the minimum attorneys' fee tariff. In the general courts, the losing party must pay attorneys’ fees and trial expenses in accordance with the Advocacy Law (1136) and the Minimum Attorneys' Fee Tariff determined by the Turkish Bar Union.
What rules and restrictions (if any) govern contingency fee arrangements?
Under the Advocacy Law, assuming that a case is free of charge is prohibited and a certain percentage (up to 25%) of the value of the case, subject matter or money awarded may be the object of a contingency agreement. Where no contract is in place to pay the attorneys’ fees, or where such a contract is deemed invalid, the fees are determined depending on the value of the dispute and are no less than the rates given in the Minimum Attorneys' Fee Tariff determined by the Turkish Bar Union. In addition, the Advocacy Law and the Minimum Attorneys' Fee Tariff apply in the determination and appreciation of the attorneys' fees to be imposed by the courts on the other party.
Is third-party litigation funding permitted in your jurisdiction? If so, do any rules or restrictions apply?
Turkish law does not provide for the payment of trial expenses and court fees by a third party. In addition, while attorneys' fees contracts made with third parties will be deemed invalid, the payment of such fees applies only to the losing party.
Is legal aid (ie, public funding) available to claimants in product liability cases? If so, what rules, restrictions and procedures apply?
Turkish law does not provide for third-party funding and does not govern public funding. However, where the Ministry of Customs and Commerce files cases before the consumer courts, the consumers and consumer organisations involved are exempt from the charges set out in the Charges Law (492). Where consumer organisations file cases, the ministry pays the expert fee – and the plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees if the case is found in its favour.
What rules and procedures govern the settlement of product liability cases?
The settlement provisions of the Turkish Code of Civil Procedures apply in both the general courts and the consumer courts. In the preliminary examination phase, the judge encourages the parties to reach a settlement or go to mediation, in which case, the judge will allocate time to the parties to explore these options. The parties may settle at any point during the proceedings – even after they have been invited to do so by the judge and have declined. If a settlement is reached, the parties may ask the court to issue a decision, in which case, the court’s decision will follow the settlement; where the parties do not request a decision from the court, the court will rule that there is no need to issue a decision.
How common are settlements in product liability cases?
Settlement and mediation are rarely used in product liability and product safety cases.
Alternative dispute resolution
Are any alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods required or advised before or in lieu of proceeding with litigation?
As stated, within the framework of the Code of Civil Procedures, the judge invites the parties to settle or mediate in the preliminary examination phase. The parties may thus apply to a mediation institution if they wish to do so.
How commonly is ADR used in relation to product liability cases in your jurisdiction?
While mediation has become mandatory in specific areas of Turkish law (eg, labour law), this is not the case in relation to product liability and product safety, where mediation is rarely used.
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