CD: Reflecting on the last 12-18 months or so, what types of disputes are you seeing arising from product liability in the automotive sector?

Egler: In the consumer and manufacturer relationship, ‘Dieselgate’ led to an increasing number of lawsuits in Germany due to the threat of statutes of limitations. Unlike US class actions, in many countries of the EU there are no class actions in the strict sense. The lack of an effective collective redress regime also had a huge impact on German courts, many of which were swamped by nearly 50,000 lawsuits brought on by individual customers. This wave of litigation was obviously too much for the court system to handle. In response to this situation, German lawmakers recently introduced collective actions in the form of model declaratory actions to simplify and accelerate court procedures. The approach taken by German lawmakers is generally in line with the collective redress systems in place in many other countries in Continental Europe, such as Italy and Spain. Model declaratory actions provide qualified associations with the ability to file for determination of the existence or non-existence of factual and legal prerequisites in the consumer and manufacturer relationship. Under the new regime, consumers are able to base their individual claims on these prerequisites if they have registered for the individual model declaratory action. Several model declaratory actions are pending at higher courts in connection with Dieselgate. The effects of this new instrument concerning product liability cases are still unknown. However, we believe that these new opportunities for collective redress will also become more important for product liability cases.

Apr-Jun 2019 issue

Bird & Bird LLP

Kirkland & Ellis LLP

Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP