This book reassesses Japanese product liability law and practice, and broader trends in product safety, in historical and global context. It contests the 'culturalist' view that Japan remains in the thrall of weak legal consciousness and consumerism, by comparing developments not only in the United States, but also Europe and Australia. The still-birth of product liability in the early 1970s, in the wake of environmental disasters in Minamata and mass litigation regarding defectives products, is contrasted with its re-birth from the late 1980s, prompted partly be deregulation. Product liability law in Japan, especially legislation enacted in 1994, is then compared with the law in the European Union, Australia and the United States, rejecting the view that the former is distinctly more 'anti-consumer'.
The pervasive impact of this re-birth and the legislation over the 1990s is gauged by analysing patterns of litigation, forms of alternative dispute resolution, other responses by companies and consumers, and various case studies, the latter include incidents involving defective foodstuffs, particularly during the 'summer of eating dangerously' in mid-2000, and Japan's outbreak of mad cow disease in mid-2001. This leads to a review of broader developments in product safety regulation, comparing Japan mainly with the European Union, The book concludes that new processes are emerging in Japan, as in other complex industrialised democracies, which render product safely regulation more private and product liability more public.
Dr Luke Nottage is a Senior Lecturer at Sydney University Law Faculty and founding Co-director of the Australian Network for Japanese Law. He has practised law in Japan, New Zealand and Australia.