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  • Print publication year: 2016
  • Online publication date: December 2017

Introduction

Summary

LAW AND TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS

Over the course of its development, the private law has always attempted to respond to the new needs of social entities arising from economic transformations, changes in technology, politics or transformations of systems of values. It has never been an easy task, but it has never been as difficult as it is today.

Many modern tort law systems developed their essential framework at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The changes that occurred during the decades that followed aimed at adapting regulations to the changing social and economic environment. They took account of technological progress to a lesser extent because this progress had relatively little impact on the status of the economy and on how society functioned on a daily basis. Technological revolutions that totally transformed society (eg the spread of steam power or electricity) happened, one might say, once a century. In recent years, by contrast, we have observed a sudden increase in the rate of technological development, and we have witnessed a ceaseless technological revolution. We have also seen, and we may anticipate, the increasingly strong impact of new technologies on society in the future – both on the business models of entrepreneurs and the lifestyles of consumers. This is why legislation in the area of liability for damages in the 20th century could afford to take a wait-and-see approach, and respond only to new phenomena that had already occurred and become entrenched in society. This was a measured response, preceded by in-depth thinking and longterm preparations. Nevertheless, there is a lot that indicates that the legislator of the 21st century will not have such comfort.

The European law regulating liability for losses caused by defective products is a good example of paths for development of legal regulations in the 20th century. The diversified development of national legislation in this area since the first decades of the 20th century, the increase in legal awareness in the area of losses caused by these products, and the search for new grounds of liability in the 1960s and in the 1970s resulted in efforts to make the substantive law rules pertaining to this liability uniform throughout the European Union.