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Europe’s approach to civil liability law and litigation is changing. As part of the European Union’s (EU) move toward a common economic culture, virtually every aspect of EU civil justice law and procedure is under review. Thus far, the laws governing product safety and commercial dealings between businesses and consumers have begun tilting toward greater liability for businesses. Whether it is strict product liability, class actions, lawyer advertising, or variations on the contingent fee, many of these changes have been seen in the United States and are starting to migrate across the Atlantic.

Until recently, many of the aspects of the American legal system that led to its excesses and abuses did not exist in Europe. Tort law has played a less important role in Europe, where industry is extensively regulated and citizens can tap into a comprehensive social security system to recover costs for their injuries. Jury trials are rare; discovery is limited; pain and suffering awards tend to be modest, and many countries discourage punitive damage awards. Nevertheless, as noted scholar on European and comparative law Geraint Howells remarked, “as the welfare state is being rolled back in Europe more attention is being paid to litigation as a means of satisfying the welfare needs of injured parties.”

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