20 November 2014: CJEU judgment in Novo Nordisk Pharma GmbH (C-310/13)
We wrote before on this blog about the problem presented in the case Novo Nordisk Pharma (Consumer's right to information about medicine's side effects - AG Szpunar in Novo Nordisk Pharma (C-310/13)). Yesterday, the CJEU gave its judgment, deciding that the Product Liability Directive and its maximum harmonisation character do not preclude such national legislation that imposes on trader's information duties not mentioned in this Directive. (Par. 33)
As a brief reminder, Article 13 of the Directive allows Member States to uphold such national special systems of liability that existed in a given Member State at the moment of notification of this Directive to the Member State. Germany has a special system of liability applicable to cases when consumers' health is damaged due to the use of medicines. This special liability system was, however, amended after the Directive has been notified by introducing a consumer's right to request from the producer of the medicinal product information on the adverse effects of that product. The German courts were unsure whether this requirement was, therefore, compliant with the Directive.
The CJEU confirms one of the views expressed by AG Szpunar, namely, that since the Directive does not regulate information duties of the producers, the consumer's right to request such information falls outside its scope (Par. 25, 29). Recital 18 of the Directive confirms that it doesn't aim to exhaustively harmonise the sphere of liability for defective products beyond the matters regulated by it (Par. 24). While the Directive places the burden of proof that the product was defective and caused damage on the consumer, the national legislation allowing consumers to request information on side effects of the medicinal products does not reverse that burden of proof but rather may only alleviate it (Par. 26-29). The CJEU does not see a possibility for the German provision to distort the effectiveness of the Directive's system of liability either (Par. 30-31).
All in all, this is good news for German consumers who may continue to require producers of medicinal products to send them detailed information on adverse effects of their medicines, which may enable consumers' claims for damages.