Over the past few years, the use of robotics to replace human tasks has increased enormously. Robots are also increasingly being used in sports and game situations. For example, several chess players played against a so-called chess robot during the Moscow Open chess tournament in Russia last month. An innocent game of chess took a bad turn for a 7-year-old opponent of the chess robot. The robot broke his finger and he had to finish the chess tournament with one hand an a cast. This incident makes for an interesting question when it comes to compensation: who can be held liable for damage caused by a robot?
Liability of the robot itself
It is currently impossible to hold a robot itself liable because robots do not qualify as legal entities. Legal entities are entities such as companies and organizations that can bear rights and obligations, as a result of which they can be treated as persons in the legal system. On national level, as well as on European level, robots are not legally recognized as legal entities yet. However, the European Parliament did adopt a resolution in 2017 in which the European Commission was encouraged to explore the option of creating a specific legal personality for robots. The proposal was met with so much controversy that the Commission has decided to disregard the issue for now.
Liability of the manufacturer and/or owner
If not the robot itself, who can be held liable for the damage caused by a robot? In case of damage caused by a defective product, such as a robot, the injured party may be able to claim compensation from the manufacturer. In that case, the injured party must state (and if necessary, prove) the existence of a defect, the damage and a causal link between the two.
The Dutch legal system also provides for a possibility to hold the owner of a defective item liable. In principle this result is the fact that that the person who exercises actual power over a movable property is liable. In order to absorb the damage, the producer or owner of the robot could take out accident insurance, so the insurance company will provide compensation in the event of an accident.