Jason F. Cohen


This note argues that Japan’s former product liability system deprived consumers of adequate protection against product defects. This note also argues that Japan’s changing economic and political conditions necessitated the introduction of strict liability. Part I examines the development of the Japanese legal system, traces the history of product liability in Japan, and discusses the structural and cultural barriers to pursuing product liability claims. Part I also explains the product liability legal theories in existence before the PL Law and discusses the twenty-year process in which Japan debated the prospects of passing this legislation. Part I concludes by discussing factors leading to the PL Law's enactment. Part II discusses the PL Law's provisions and examines the impact of the law on corporate Japan, the judiciary and government, and on Japanese consumers. Part III argues that Japan needed the PL Law to bolster the position of Japanese consumers against manufacturers and enable the Japanese government to facilitate deregulation by reducing its product safety standards. Part III also argues that the PL Law is changing Japanese society by promoting a pro-consumer attitude in Japan's legal and corporate spheres. This Note concludes that the PL Law is a key first step to creating a more equitable product liability recovery system and making manufacturers more accountable to the Japanese public.