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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2009

Case 5 - Micro-organisms

from Part A - Scope of liable persons


The operator of a scientific laboratory, A, is dealing with dangerous micro-organisms. As a result of the unintentional release of these micro-organisms, B suffers damage.

Is A liable to B? Would it make any difference if B was a neighbour to A's site where the release took place? What kind of damage may B claim?

Would it make any difference if the operator of the laboratory was a private person or a company, or if the laboratory was run by the state?

Comparative remarks


Dangerous micro-organisms

No European country provides for specific liability provisions with regard to dangerous micro-organisms. Therefore, liability as outlined under Case 1 will apply to the operator of such an activity. It is interesting to note that Belgian scholars are ready to apply Article 1385 Civil Code, which holds the owner or keeper of an animal strictly liable for the damage caused by the animal, to animal-like micro-organisms as well. Micro-organisms that are rather of a vegetal nature can be considered to be ‘things’ according to Article 1384 § 1 Civil Code. In Finland and Sweden, the specific environmental damages regime (Finland: Environmental Damages Act 1994; Sweden: Environmental Code 1999, Chapter 32) would be applicable if the damage stems from the polluting interference by micro-organisms. Harm caused by the direct consumption of dangerous micro-organisms or by bodily contact would not be covered by the Acts.

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