Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Markus G. Puder

First Page



This Article examines the interactions between European Community and national law, in the context of Member State public tort liability. Specifically, the Article analyzes Brasserie du Pecheur v. Federal Republic of Germany, a case that pitted German beer purity legislation against requirements of Community law. In that case, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that acts or omissions of the national legislator may, under certain conditions, give rise to Member State public tort liability, which is adjudicated in the national court systems. The German Federal Court of Justice dismissed the case after finding that the conditions of state liability were not met under either German or Community law.

The Article discusses in detail the nature and characteristics of the Member State liability principle conceived by the ECJ; despite the silence of treaty law on this issue, the ECJ has long supported the notion that a Member State may incur tort liability for breaching community law. As a result of ECJ jurisprudence, supranational judge-made law may deeply permeate domestic legal orders. However, the German court's dismissal of the damages claim in Brasserie du Pecheur demonstrates that Member State liability is not open-ended. Rather, a balance may be achieved between European Community (EC) compliance interests and Member State domestic institutional prerogatives.