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Protecting Consumers From AI: EU Introduces Liability Legislation


For those of us who are fans of The Terminator series, protecting the public from AI is a serious concern. The European Commission which sets policy for the EU recently introduced two proposals that would bring product liability into the digital age. This means creating a system for consumers who are injured by AI-related products to recover compensation. For instance, let’s say that you’re having a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant when an automated vehicle plows through the glass storefront. Who is responsible for that injury?

In America, the driver is still responsible for the injury because the driver has the ultimate duty of care to maintain control of their vehicle. While Tesla and others are sued by drivers who sustain injury, it is becoming more commonplace to lay charges at the feet of the driver whose AI caused an accident. In America, you can be charged with manslaughter if your AI kills another person. You must maintain control of the car at all times regardless of any other factor.

So how does this affect me? 

To be sure, the EU’s rules will not affect you but they may provide some insight into the future of American product liability. Software companies have done amazing legislative work getting their wares categorized as services (and not products) to avoid some of the product liability legislation that protects American consumers. In other cases, the categorization of software as a service (SAAS) has not helped companies avoid lawsuits. The EU will make AI-related products categorically “products” for the purposes of product liability torts. European companies will not be able to claim “services exemptions” from strict liability relating to defective products.

The new legislation would also cover resellers and remanufacturers that create problems for American lawyers who want to sue on behalf of injured clients. In some cases, the law is unclear and lawsuits against Chinese vendors that create potentially dangerous products are impossible to file. That means holding marketplaces like Amazon liable for placing these products into the stream of commerce which is not always easy. The EU would make it possible for European citizens to hold European vendors accountable for defective or dangerous products.

Problematically, however, personal injury lawsuits are often grounds for a company to gain access to trade secrets of another company. If the company can craft an argument that forces the disclosure of copyrighted information, then that company could lose trade secrets. Nonetheless, the plaintiff has a right to know information that pertains to their injury. The companies that want to protect their trade secrets become very nervous when they’re forced to disclose information in a personal injury lawsuit. A crafty lawyer could fashion a lawsuit that would force that disclosure, costing the company millions.

So, while things may be moving forward in the EU, Americans may be waiting for the dawn of Skynet before we get any actionable legislation concerning AI liability.

Talk to a Florida Product Liability Lawyer Today 

Halpern, Santos & Pinkert represents the interest of Florida residents who have been injured by dangerous or defective products. Call our Florida personal injury lawyers today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.



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