Product liability

Companies face many challenges in product liability claims. Manufacturers, distributors and insurers are confronted with a minefield of questions and issues arising from liability risks and the wider potential exposure.

Companies operating across international boundaries and jurisdictions face even greater challenges. Each jurisdiction has its own product regulation, product liability laws, recall laws, procedures, court systems, inter-relationship with occupational health and safety laws and regulatory environments.

For companies that need to manage their exposure to product recall and product-related regulatory matters, DibbsBarker provides a full answer through a team that is experienced in all aspects of product safety and regulatory issues.

DibbsBarker advises national and international clients and their insurers on managing their product liability risks, including compliance with legislative and reporting obligations and the conduct of product liability claims. We assist our clients to implement internal procedures to protect their interests and limit their risks. We develop customised and cohesive defence strategies to protect our clients’ interests efficiently, sensitively and, where possible, through negotiation.

We use our extensive experience to assist clients to design product recall plans and work with them to implement successful product recalls.

We understand and know how to manage the expectations of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and specialist regulators such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

We assist our clients to navigate the complex regulatory environment. We are fully cognisant of the obligations and requirements of the work health and safety legislation in all Australian federal and state jurisdictions. We have a wealth of experience in conducting, mediating and resolving product liability claims before all court levels in Australia, from the High Court to Coronial Courts.

Our team looks beyond the legal aspects of a case to consider our clients’ reputation, brand, business relationships and ethical implications. We also work with clients to manage any adverse publicity.


Product recall management and litigation - compliance during recall: DibbsBarker assisted a supplier of air conditioning units to formulate and successfully implement a strategy to manage the recall and rectification of potentially affected units. The challenge in this instance was coordinating and documenting the rectification of a large number of units in a manner which complied with competition and consumer laws, as well as satisfying the Australian regulator. We assisted the client to prepare a method of collecting and collating the data in a manner which would allow for regular, simple reporting, illustrating to the regulator that the recall was being proactively prioritised by the client.

Defence of product manufacturing and design - international motor claims: DibbsBarker manages liability claims exclusively for a major vehicle manufacturer across products in Asia. This requires liaising with their officers in Japan and the United States, their claims management team, and international and local experts in relation to alleged design and manufacturing defects.

Impact of workplace health and safety law - drafting a code of practice: DibbsBarker was retained by a group of Australian vehicle distributors, liaising with their international manufacturers firstly before a parliamentary inquiry and then in consultation with the occupational health and safety regulators throughout Australia and New Zealand in relation to the product’s safety. This involved drafting a code of practice and possible amendments to relevant legislation. A series of initiatives were implemented to promote consistent product information, and design an occupational health and safety approach to the product which would assist in the defence of personal injury claims arising from this vehicle. The finding of the parliamentary inquiry was in line with the industry’s recommendations.

Protection of IP and brand - further media coverage avoided: In a recall where there had been some potentially inaccurate reporting regarding the nature of the problem, we discussed the issue with the journalist and were able to demonstrate to him that the issue was not serious enough to warrant further media coverage.

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