Product Liability Litigation

Signature’s product liability practice focuses on helping major national companies and multinationals deal with every compliance issue that may arise with regulators, suppliers or consumers.

We advise clients on all aspects of liability following their products from the day they are designed until they are placed on the market.

Our track-record in product liability disputes demonstrates how we fully explore the technical details and thoroughly understand our clients' products and culture.

As the scope and scale of product liability claims continue to increase, clients need a legal team that can combine solid experience with a deep knowledge of sectors in which these complex claims arise.

Our team of ten product liability lawyers has extensive experience in providing legal advice across multiple sectors (regulatory advice, pre-litigation, litigation, negotiations with the regulators). In the context of the Paris legal market our product liability team is one of the largest and is therefore able to handle highly complex and large disputes.

We advise manufacturers, distributors and suppliers in all their product-related issues: regulatory advice, dealing with or litigation against the regulators, product liability cases against consumers/users, litigation within the supply chain and/or customers, class action, civil and criminal claims. Representative examples of our work are outlined below.

We advise manufacturing companies facing product liability issues, product recalls and related litigation across a broad range of consumer and retail products: e.g. electronic and electric products, household appliances, toys, textile and automotive. Examples of clients whom we have represented include:

  • A leading US electronic products manufacturer on the scope of an investigation launched for alleged planned obsolescence and deceit on the life expectancy of one of its products as well as all French consumer claims
  • A global car manufacturer on the scope of the worldwide Dieselgate investigation and ensuing consumer claims
  • A US tyre manufacturer on the first civil claims filed on the ground of anxiety linked to the presence of chemical substances in its products
  • A US electric vehicle manufacturer in proceedings filed following allegations that the charging system was the source of a fire that destroyed a house
  • A German household appliances manufacturer relating to several investigations by French authorities on the compliance of their products
  • An international toy manufacturer following the ingestion of one of its products by children which led to internal injuries.

We advise businesses engaged in engineering, electric/electronic equipment, as well as steel and other metals, on a wide range of product liability matters which led to industrial risks and major incidents. In this scope, we provide comprehensive support to clients who face technical and legal investigations (civil and criminal and/or administrative led), compliance issues, civil compensation claims (individual and class actions). Examples of clients we have represented include:

  • An electric equipment manufacturer in the scope of an investigation carried out following the fire and destruction of part of a datacentre in Eastern France
  • A German ceiling mechanism manufacturer in the scope of proceedings launched following alleged defects in the installation of a ceiling which caused it to fall on one of France’s largest skyscrapers
  • A US lubricant provider following an explosion at an industrial site which led to the death of a worker, allegedly linked to a defect in the tank’s heating system
  • A leading steel and titanium manufacturer on the scope of claims filed by former employees on the ground of potential risk of developing a disease caused by substances used in the manufacturing process
  • An engine part manufacturer following an accident involving a passenger ferry on the French coast

We advise producers, manufacturers and distributors in the food chain on contamination incidents, compliance issues, regulatory matters, recalls and criminal litigation/ investigations. Examples of clients whom we have advised and assisted include:

  • France’s leading raw ingredients manufacturer for bakery products on the scope of a criminal investigation for misleading commercial practices. These were initiated by the French regulator following online allegations made about some products
  • A leading manufacturer of solutions aimed at detecting listeria following the death of two consumers who ate a specific cheese
  • A global online retailer in anticipation of the launch of a service allowing its users to order food online, including very specific regulatory issues such as the regulation which applies to products in contact with drinking water
  • A farm equipment manufacturer relating to the scope of a global investigation on the compliance of its products by the French Ministry for Agriculture
  • A leading foie gras manufacturer on criminal litigation relating to its commercial practices initiated by the French regulator on the grounds of how certain machinery was used in the manufacturing process

Products liability issues in the life sciences and pharmaceutical sectors can be challenging and complex, especially in the creation, development, and implementation of new products. We help companies in the defence of product liability claims, investigations, and authorisations as well as dealing with regulatory bodies. We have represented and assisted the following:

  • A Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer on product liability claims filed against it in France
  • A contact lenses manufacturer on the scope of product liability claims filed against it in France
  • A US manufacturer of medical devices designed to minimize migraines and other headaches in the context of an internal investigation intended to verify the validity of renewing certificates of conformity and marketing authorizations
  • An international pharmaceutical company in litigation following allegations of health risks in relation to contraceptive pills
  • A US cosmetics manufacturer on the development of a hand sanitizer/hydrogel

As the activities of tech companies and e-commerce platforms continue to proliferate, so does the range of product liability claims against them following recent changes in the law. Examples of companies that we have represented or assisted include:

  • As US internet research provider on the compliance of its payment system concerning companies posting information
  • A US social media company on the scope of digital product launches in the EU market
  • A US marketplace in the scope of an investigation launched by the French market surveillance authorities which led to its partial delisting
  • A European marketplace on data privacy and consumer-related issues that it encountered when launching its website in France and Spain
  • A US marketplace in litigation launched in France by major French luxury brands on the ground of breach of their selective distribution networks

Environmental and regulatory compliance issues, or more generally ESG issues, are integral to most businesses, whether they are engaged in hazardous activities or not. We have advised and represented diverse clients across multiple sectors in relation to product liability matters and claims relating to climate change, regulation, renewables, waste and investigations (civil, criminal and administrative). Examples include:

  • Several consumer product manufacturers on the issue of reparability and environmental claims
  • A herbicide manufacturer on the scope of investigations by the French customs concerning the composition of one of its herbicides and its affect on food products
  • An electrical power and advanced materials provider on the scope of a claim filed by a French association for the protection of the environment following alleged breaches of environment regulations
  • A US conglomerate on the scope of French authorities’ investigation relating to the storage of batteries and nuclear waste
  • A tube manufacturer following the disclosure of an internal fraud relating to the quality of raw materials used for tubes installed in nuclear facilities

We are widely recognised for our product liability litigation expertise

Sylvie Gallage-Alwis is highly recognised for her skills as a litigator by directories. She is described by Who’s Who Legal as a “dynamic and determined litigator”, who is “a firm favourite among clients” as “she always goes the extra mile to support her clients, and is proactive in seeking commercial solutions to disputes”. Sylvie has been ranked for a number of years as a ‘Thought Leader’ in the Who’s Who Legal France: Product Liability Defence Guide, which notes her “rigorous analysis, strategic guidance and seasoned litigation” on complex product disputes and recognises her as a “a star in the international world” and “well-connected expert”. She has won several awards such as the “Best in Product Liability” award at the 2019 LMG Euromoney Europe Women in Business Law Awards and the Lexology Client Choice award in Product Liability in 2021. In The Legal 500 EMEA 2022, France chapter, Sylvie is recognised as a ‘Leading Individual’ for product liability within the Dispute Resolution: Commercial Litigation category.

Recognised by Who’s Who Legal as the “finest product liability lawyer in the country and one of the very best on the continent”, Thomas Rouhette has a seasoned, wide and multifaceted practice, spanning from contract litigation to corporate and banking disputes as well as to fraud and asset tracing. Thomas is regarded by Who’s Who Legal as one of the top three ‘Global Elite Thought Leaders’ in EMEA for Life Sciences: Product Liability, and the directory notes he has “a tough style that is very effective”. Thomas has also been listed as one of the “Most Highly Regarded” practitioners in Who’s Who Legal France: Product Liability Defence, with the Guide noting that he is “a pre-eminent figure in the French market”. Thomas is the only French member of the Product Liability Advisory Council (PLAC). He is further listed by Chambers Europe, Chambers Global and The Legal 500 as one of the top product liability lawyers in France. The Legal 500 EMEA 2022 Guide ranks Thomas in its ‘Hall of Fame’ for his litigation expertise.