Kutaisi Regional Blood Bank v. Lamira Chaladze

Case No. as-296-624-07
Download Judgment: English Georgian

While giving birth to her second son, the Respondent lost a large amount of blood and needed a blood transfusion. Her relatives bought erythrocyte mass and karyoplasms from the Kutaisi Regional Blood Bank.  After the transfusion, the Respondent and her son became sick and doctors ultimately concluded that the Respondent and her son was HIV positive due to the blood transfusion from Kutaisi Blood Bank and subsequent breast-feeding. The Respondent sued the Kutaisi Regional Blood Bank for providing unhealthy blood, seeking 200,000 GEL in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

The Kutaisi City Civil Court partially satisfied the Respondent’s claim and fined the Appellant 20,000 GEL. Both the Respondent and the  Appellant appealed. The Kutaisi Appellate Court’s Civil Affairs Chamber held in favor of the Respondent which was based on the evidence, inter alia, that the blood donor had not been tested for HIV, that the same donor had infected others with the HIV virus,  that no HIV virus was detected in the Respondent’s blood during her pregnancy medical checks and that the Appellants had failed to comply with the general standards required for a blood bank.

The Appellants appealed the decision to the Cassation Court for final adjudication on the grounds that the Appellate Chambers had not objectively assessed the evidence.

The Cassation Court upheld the judgment of the Appellate Court.

The Cassation Court considered that the Appellate Court’s judgment was an accurate assessment of the evidence because the Appellants did not meet the standard of manufacturing care they were supposed to meet under the Civil Procedural Code and were thus liable for making defective product (here, the tainted blood). The Court explained that as it was difficult  for a common consumer to determine how reliable a product was the burden or diligence was higher upon the manufacturer to make sure that risky products were safe. Moreover, as the Kutaisi Regional Blood Bank was a state-certified blood bank and manufactured specific blood products, the customer was expected to have some confidence in the products sold by them; because the donor’s HIV positive condition could have been detected, the fact that the equipment necessary to detect the virus was rare and expensive could not exclude the manufacturer from liability.

In addition, the Court held that where there were certain unavoidable risks to life and health related to various products the manufacturer was obliged to give the consumer “essential, reliable and full” information about such risks, which the Appellants had failed to do here.

“The Cassation Court explains that since the article 1010 of the Civil Code considers the reliability as criteria for the product’s low quality, it is difficult and in some cases impossible for the participant of the civil turnover, especially for non-entrepreneur consumer to determine how far reliable this or that product is. Obviously the party of the agreement who offers a consumer a particular product the diligence is on entrepreneur for product to be reliable. Such diligence is superfluous when the party selling such product which is in some extent related to the risk. At the same time the quality of the product determines its price and the interest of the contracting party, accordingly non existence of the contract on quality of the product between the parties do not exclude the liability of the low quality product’s manufacturer. In the given case the cassation applicant coming from its business, operates by state license and manufacturing specific product – blood product and its selling, the consumer has a particular confidence. …. With the mentioned provision the manufacturer of a substandard product shall not be liable for harm caused by this product, the defect could not be detected at the time it was offered for sale, taking into account the level of scientific and technical development at that time. The manufacturer with the ambition to produce and sell any product had an obligation to support the industry by appropriate equipment, but the high price and rarity of these equipments cannot be exclusion of the manufacturer’s liability. ” Page 5.

“Thereby the Cassation Court explains in view of the fact the manufacturer offering to sell such product which directly affects human’s absolute rights – on life and health and the full examination of the quality by taking into account the existing level of science and technique related to some problems, the manufacturer has an obligation to give a consumer information about the mentioned factors and warn about the following result.” Page 5

“With the aforementioned circumstances the cassation Court Concludes that manufacturer should have provided the information in what extent the product ensured the consumer’s safety, accordingly the Appellate Court’s indication that L.Chaladze’s close relatives when bought the essential blood for the plaintiff presumed to buy undoubtedly reliable and quality product and nobody warned them for the possible shortcoming of the product.” Page 5