16 January 2014: CJEU judgment in Kainz (C-45/13)
Mr Kainz, resident of Salzburg (Austria), bought a bicycle from a company Funbike, established in Austria, but the bike was manufactured by a German company Pantherwerke. While he was riding that bike in Germany he fell and injured himself. The bike turned out to be defective and based on the product liability rules Mr Kainz claimed compensation of more than 21.000 Euro from the manufacturer - Pantherwerke. The parties differed as to their opinion on which courts should have jurisdiction over this claim - pursuant to the Regulation No 44/2001 it should be the place of the harmful event - Austrian (bicycle was made available to the end user there) or German (where product was manufactured and where to the product was dispatched). Obviously, the consumer had an interest in claiming Austrian jurisdiction while the company wanted to defend themselves in Germany.
The CJEU needed to answer a question what should be considered as a place of the event giving rise to the damage in the product liability cases. The CJEU reminds that the main principle of the Regulation is to provide the defendant with an opportunity to protect himself in the courts of his country of domicile (Art. 2). (Par. 21) Special jurisdiction rules of Art. 5 should be interpreted restrictively. (Par. 22) However, in tort liability cases the Regulation gives a possibility to a claimant to choose to sue either in the courts of a country where the the damage occurred or where the place of the event giving rise to it was. (Par. 23) The CJEU determiners in this case that in principle in product liability cases the place where the event which damaged the product itself occurred is the place where the defective product was manufactured. (Par. 26) In this respect, Art. 5(3) of the Regulation does not intend to give special protection to the weaker party by allowing it to claim in courts of his own domicile (Par. 31), but rather to protect the legal certainty (Par. 28).
As a result of this judgment two out of three possibilities will always point out to the jurisdiction of the courts of the manufacturer's domicile. Unless the damage occurred in the consumer's country of domicile, which in this case did not take place, the consumer has to sue in a foreign court for his damages.