First judgment on a health-related group action in the Dépakine case

Authors M.J. Azar-Baud 1

On 5 January 2022, the Tribunal judiciaire of Paris2 declared admissible the first French health-related group action3 and found the pharmaceutical laboratory liable. It is the first time an action of this type has reached the stage of the judgment on the merits. The finding of the court was based both on the fault – breach of obligation of care and obligation to provide information – and on the defect in the anti-epileptic drugs the defendant produced and marketed. Following the group action regime, as set out in the Public Health Code, the decision does not set the actual amount of damages, which will be dependent on the particular situation of each victim but opens a second stage consisting of a 5-year opt-in period. The victims who meet the criteria established therein can join the group to obtain the compensation for their bodily and personal injury by a request addressed either to the plaintiff or the defendant accompanied by the evidence to document their claims. Only then, the third and enforcement stage will lead to a spontaneous compensation on an individual basis, or to a forced one. In the latter case, the victims whose claims have not been awarded may ask the judge who ruled on the liability for the compensation of their damages. The decision represents a milestone in France in many respects, which will be explored in this case note.

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