The Consumer Protection Act 1987 is a civil law statute, which means it falls under the area of tort law rather than criminal law (some aspects are criminal). The Act provides consumers with the right to sue manufacturers and suppliers of defective products for damages caused by those products. It imposes a strict liability on manufacturers and suppliers for any harm caused by their defective products. This means that they can be held responsible even if they were not negligent in producing or supplying the product.
Under the Consumer Protection Act 1987, a consumer who has suffered harm due to a defective product may be entitled to receive several types of payments, including:
- Compensation for any personal injury or damage to property caused by the defective product.
- Payment for any financial losses suffered as a result of the harm caused by the defective product, such as lost wages, medical expenses, and the cost of repairing or replacing damaged property.
- Refund or replacement of the defective product, or compensation for any reduction in the value of the product caused by the defect.
- Punitive damages in certain circumstances, such as where the manufacturer or supplier knew or should have known about the defect but failed to take appropriate action to prevent harm.
The exact payments that may be available to a consumer will depend on the circumstances of the case and the extent of the harm caused by the defective product.
There have been cases in the UK where death has been caused by defective products, and in such cases, the families of the deceased may be entitled to compensation under the Consumer Protection Act 1987.
One notable case is that of the Zeebrugge ferry disaster in 1987, where the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry capsized shortly after leaving the port of Zeebrugge, resulting in 193 deaths. The cause of the disaster was found to be a design flaw in the ferry’s bow doors, which allowed water to flood into the car deck.
In 1990, the ferry company, Townsend Thoresen, and its parent company, P&O European Ferries, were found liable for the disaster under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 and ordered to pay £3.2 million in compensation to the families of the victims. This remains one of the highest known payouts under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 for a case involving death caused by a defective product.
The £3.2 million payout ordered in the Zeebrugge ferry disaster case was not a per-person payout, but rather a total amount awarded to be divided among the families of the victims. The amount each family received would have varied depending on their individual circumstances and the losses they suffered as a result of the death of their loved one. It’s worth noting that the amount of compensation awarded in cases of death caused by defective products can be influenced by various factors, such as the severity of the harm, the financial means of the defendant, and the evidence presented in court.
The Zeebrugge ferry disaster case was not a group litigation order. A group litigation order (GLO) is a legal procedure in the UK that allows multiple claimants with similar claims against the same defendant to combine their claims into a single action (what the Americans call a class action). The purpose of a GLO is to save time and cost by avoiding the need for multiple separate trials.
In the Zeebrugge ferry disaster case, there were multiple claims brought by the families of the victims against the ferry company, Townsend Thoresen, and its parent company, P&O European Ferries. However, these claims were not consolidated into a single GLO, but were instead heard together in a series of individual cases that were part of a larger group of claims arising from the disaster.
The Zeebrugge ferry disaster case was heard by a judge rather than a jury. Cases brought under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 are typically heard in civil courts, where a judge will make a decision based on the evidence presented by both parties. This is different from criminal courts, where a jury may be used to determine guilt or innocence in criminal cases.
In the Zeebrugge case, liability was established in a civil trial held in the High Court of Justice in London in 1990. The judge in that trial, Mr. Justice Sheen, found that the ferry company, Townsend Thoresen, and its parent company, P&O European Ferries, were liable under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 for the design flaws that caused the disaster. The judge’s decision was based on the evidence presented by both parties, including expert testimony and technical reports, as well as the findings of a public inquiry into the disaster.
Under the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) in the UK, it is “generally” not possible to request a jury trial for cases brought under the Consumer Protection Act 1987. This is because cases brought under the Act are considered to be civil cases rather than criminal cases, and civil cases in the UK are generally heard by a judge rather than a jury.
However, it’s worth noting that there may be certain circumstances where a jury trial could be granted in the interests of justice (public interest), such as cases where the outcome of the case could have wider implications for public safety or where there are complex technical issues that may benefit from a jury’s understanding. In such cases, a party may apply to the court for a trial by jury, and the court would consider the application based on the specific circumstances of the case.
Ultimately, the decision of whether to grant a jury trial would be at the discretion of the court (this is part of the problem as the state removed jury trials as an English right in 1933, the same time the Nazi’s came to power) and would depend on various factors, including the complexity of the case, the nature of the harm suffered, and the interests of justice.
Please note 1. The government’s Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme does NOT preclude a tort remedy and punitive damages.
Please note 2. That Grand Juries were removed from English law too. Why? The state control started long ago.
Please note 3. Juries should decide these cases and damages NOT a Judge.
Written and researched by Graham Moore (Leader of the English Constitution Party) after seeing this article. Don’t allow the victims to be conned.