Product Liability: Avoiding and mitigating product liability exposure

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Course Overview: 

Product safety is an increasingly high priority for the automotive supply chain, and rightly so: recent years have seen a string of global product safety crises in the industry. Car-makers and their suppliers are the subject of media and regulatory scrutiny like never before, and the trail of recalls, regulatory investigation sand litigation speaks for itself: despite significant advancements in quality management standards and techniques, automotive businesses continue to stumble into crises as a result of design and manufacturing errors, poor communication/document management or inadequate crisis planning.

And if you thought these issues were a concern only for OEMs, think again: with the increasing complexity of automotive supply chains, the growing opportunities and pressures of new technology and increasingly sophisticated regulatory frameworks, the reputational and financial risk for Tier 1 and 2 suppliers is real and growing. There has never been a more important time to understand and address your exposures. 

As part of its ongoing work to position the UK automotive sector as a leader in product safety and quality management, the SMMT QMD has teamed up with product liability expert sat leading global law firm Eversheds Sutherland to provide a series of sessions helping UK automotive businesses to understand their legal responsibilities and liabilities and to improve their systems so as to minimise the risk of product safety crises and respond better when they occur.

Eversheds Sutherland’s product compliance team have been working on these issues with OEMs and major Tier 1 suppliers for years. Thanks to the SMMT the whole UK automotive supply chain can now access their expertise.

The Product Liability Programme consists of the following modules:

  1. Product Liability: Avoiding and mitigating product liability exposure 
  2. Product Liability: Managing a Product Safety Crisis

Product Liability: Avoiding and mitigating product liability exposure 

This module will help you and your business to answer the following questions:

  • Why product crises happen?
  • How your business or its staff would be liable to criminal or civil action if your product or component was found to be defective?
  • What you can do to reduce the risk of a crisis, and mitigate the impact when one occurs?

This session will address all of these issues and help you manage the increasing product liability risks faced by all players in the automotive sector today. 

Who Should Attend: 

Anyone, anywhere in an automotive supply chain who is concerned with improving the ability of their business to reduce the risk of safety crises and respond more effectively when they occur. 

The audience will vary depending on the size and structure of each business. In broad terms we would expect this module to be of most interest to business leaders and senior engineering/quality staff.


Upon completion of the course you will receive a SMMT Quality Management (QMD) certificate of attendance.

Benefits and Learning Objectives: 

By the end of this course you will be able to:

  • Understand how your business can be liable in the event of a product safety crisis
  • Understand the role that effective implementation of quality frameworks such as IATF16949:2016 can play in mitigating product liability risk.
  • Identify and prioritise key steps you can take to help manage the risk in your business

Topics Covered: 

  • An overview of the principles of automotive product liability law, ‘war stories’ from the litigation front line, general principles governing recovery of losses through the supply chain and the impact of quality/safety issues on automotive businesses. . 
  • Joint responsibilities of OEMs and their suppliers for the quality and safety of their products: who is responsible for what, and how liability percolates through the supply chain.
  • A ‘post mortem’ of real-life automotive product safety crises: what went wrong, and lessons to learn. 
  • The impact of rapid technological change on your product safety risk profile, and what you can do about it. 
  • Practical measures to help avoid crises or reduce the impact when they occur, including:
  • Managing quality through contractual arrangements, the importance of audit/quality monitoring
  • How to manage documentation and communications to build an open, accountable culture, both internally and with supply chain partners, whilst avoid damaging your position when documents are required to be disclosed in litigation. 
  • The significance of FMEA and similar techniques in identifying and addressing design and production risks before they arise, and their role as evidence in litigation
  • Traceabilty as a tool to downscale product risk
  • How to manage the liability risks arising from new technologies 
  • The importance of adequate warnings and instructions for use
  • Field data monitoring: why it matters, the legal responsibilities on OEMs and suppliers and practical guidance
  • The relevance of industry standards (including IATF16949), UNECE and other regulatory frameworks and their impact on potential liabilities. Principles applicable where technology is outpacing regulation

Why Choose SMMT QMD:

In order to strengthen the services we provide to the UK’s automotive quality management specialists and further underpin the competitiveness of UK manufacturers, SMMT Industry Forum has created SMMT QMD, its new Quality Management Division.

SMMT QMD was launched at the inaugural Automotive Quality Management Systems Conference in Birmingham in November 2018 and aims to ensure that the UK automotive industry plays an active role in the development and governance of national and international automotive standards. 

SMMT QMD will provide a community of practice to directly support UK quality professionals, ensuring standards are effectively implemented and improving competitive performance. As such, SMMT QMD will now provide the following services:

  • An industry association for quality managers
  • Training, professional development and resources
  • Publications
  • Practical help and support

Course Booking Details: 

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Further information

SMMT QMD is the Automotive Quality Management Division of SMMT Industry Forum.

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