The EU Court of Justice ruled, on 2 December, in a case that concerns producers' liability for defective products in a context where the complainant had made a mistake in the "classification of producer'" and the legally prescribed "limitation period" for a substitution claim had expired.

Case C-358/08 (Aventis Pasteur SA vs OB) concerned a judgement on the EU directive on liability for defective products. Directive 85/374/EEC provides for a ten-year period for bringing proceedings against the manufacturer of a defective product. The act that implements this directive in the UK authorises the substitution, after that period, of one defendant for another in certain circumstances and in particular where there is a mistake about the identity of the person against whom proceedings should be brought.

The verdict follows a case between the French company Aventis Pasteur SA, which produces pharmaceutical products, including anti-haemophilus vaccines, and the individual OB, who bought one of these vaccines from a UK distributor. OB suffered severe brain damage subsequent to the administration of a unit of the vaccine at issue.

OB brought "an action for damages" within the ten-year period against the UK distributor of the product (Merieux UK Ltd), but he made a mistake about the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine. When he made a second attempt to sue the company, the ten-year window for bringing action against the producer had already expired. The House of Lords then asked the court whether national law is compatible with the directive concerning "liability for...

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