In Italy, product liability is governed by Legislative Decree no. 206 of September 6, 2005, (the Consumer Code), which implements both the EU Product Liability Directive (Directive 85/374/EEC) and the EU General Product Safety Directive (Directive 2001/95/EC). Other available product liability systems include, to a limited extent, contractual liability, liability for dangerous activities and liability arising from the general principle of tort law under section 2043 of the Italian Civil Code (the neminem laedere principle). In addition, should a defective product cause the death or a physical injury to the end user, criminal liability may apply.
With regard to the general rules on product safety and to the legal standards governing the manufacture, distribution and sale of products, the provisions of the Consumer Code only apply to those products that are not covered by other sector-specific legislation (eg toys, machinery, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and food). The Consumer Code also complements the provisions of sector-specific legislation, where the latter does not cover certain matters such as the powers of the relevant public authorities in charge of safety issues.
Product liability and recall disputes continue to grow in Italy. Furthermore, Italy does have a class action legislation since 2008 and collective actions can be initiated either by single consumers as class representatives or by consumers associations. Despite certain legislative reforms introduced over the years to strengthen the mechanism of mass tort litigation, this has not met with the success that many initially expected. In general terms, Italian law does not allow for punitive damages to be awarded in the field of product liability and, more generally, in the field of tort liability, though a few years ago the Italian Supreme Court clarified that punitive damages are not per se incompatible with the Italian legal order and with the nature and function of tort liability under Italian law.
Our litigation department has a team of over 40 lawyers, based in Milan and Rome, and many of them focus on product liability matters. The litigation department also provides regulatory advice on security and product recalls and work closely with other departments to advise clients in managing the entire lifecycle of a product.
Our Italian product liability lawyers represent clients in the following main areas: