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Responsibility for Autonomously Determining Machines in Czech Republic

Responsibility for Autonomously Determining Machines in Czech Republic

From the point of view of law, robot is not a subject of rights. Thus, the direct autonomous machine's legal liability in Czech Republic does not exist. Therefore, in case of their error, it is necessary to look for a responsible natural or legal person, who is a subject of rights, within the limits allowed by law. In Czech law, we can consider using an analogy to several types of objective liability set out in the Civil Code, in particular to the damage caused by the thing and to the damage caused by particularly hazardous operations, and finally, we can also use the principle of respondeat superior. In case of primitive robots, it is possible to apply the thesis, that the person liable for its actions is the person supervising the primitive robot - a user or an owner (according to §2936 and the following of Civil Code). But in cases of more perfect, more autonomous systems, this presumption the third person liability for the actions of an autonomous robot might seem to be unjust. Damage caused by particularly hazardous operation is based on the responsibility of the operator.

In the Czech legal order, the basis of this issue is regulated in Section 2925 paragraph 1 of the Civil Code as follows: " A person who operates an enterprise or another facility which is particularly hazardous shall compensate the damage caused by the source of the increased danger; an operation is particularly hazardous if the possibility of serious damage cannot be reasonably excluded in advance even by exercising due care.” Czech Civil Code interprets this Article in a way, that almost anything can be considered as dangerous operation, but there is no direct link to the artificial intelligence. Some foreign sources, however, already use this principle directly with regard to artificial intelligence.

Liability for damage caused by particularly hazardous operation is objective. That means, that the operator is liable, although he is not at fault himself. This objective liability is not constituted as the absolutely objective though. It is possible for the operator to liberate himself in cases, where he proves that the damage has been caused by vis major, or by unavoidable act of a third party, which the operator has no real chance to prevent.

Speaking of the liability for damage caused by artificial intelligence, the use of this principle is particularly appropriate in the context of the "deep pocket" theory. According to this theory, the operator (in the case of fully autonomous robots the manufacturer or programmer, not the end user) of particularly hazardous operation is obliged to compensate for all its damages from the operator’s profits. As a consequence, this obligation would lead mainly to the compulsory insurance for eventual liability for damage for all operators of particularly hazardous operation, which would undoubtedly result in higher prices for their products for consumers and end-users.

The respondeat superior principle originates in Anglo-Saxon legal systems, and is reflected in the Czech Civil Code in its Section 1935 and Section 2914 as so-called "vicarious liability”. The principle of such liability is, that A person who, in his activities, uses an agent, employee or another helper shall provide compensation for the damage caused by such a person as if he caused it himself. That means the operator shall be liable for the autonomous machines he uses for his operation.

The practice of courts, as far as autonomous robots and machines working without a human assistance or supervision, is very limited for now. Therefore, we can only speculate which of the two abovementioned principles shall prevail in the era of Digitization 4.0.

For more information please contact us:

JUDr. Mojmír Ježek, Ph.D.

ECOVIS ježek, advokátní kancelář s.r.o.
Betlémské nám. 6
110 00 Prague 1
e-mail: mojmir.jezek@ecovislegal.cz

About ECOVIS ježek advokátní kancelář s.r.o.
The Czech law office in Prague ECOVIS ježek practices mainly in the area of Czech commercial law, Czech real estate law, representation at Czech courts, administrative bodies and arbitration courts, as well as Czech finance and banking law, and provides full-fledged advice in all areas, making it a suitable alternative for clients of international law offices. The international dimension of the Czech legal services provided is ensured through past experience and through co-operation with leading legal offices in most European countries, the US, and other jurisdictions. The Czech lawyers of the ECOVIS ježek team have many years of experience from leading international law offices and tax companies, in providing legal advice to multinational corporations, large Czech companies, but also to medium-sized companies and individual clients. For more information, go to www.ecovislegal.cz/en.

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