Foreign manufacturers were responsible for 83 percent of the 377 recalls announced by the Consumer Products Safety Commission last year, according the American Association for Justice. Despite this staggeringly high percentage of problematic products, foreign manufacturers can escape liability due to the differences between domestic law and foreign law.
A prime example is the toxic Chinese drywall fiasco. Thousands of people could suffer serious side effects due to exposure from the hazardous chemicals found in this drywall. Furthermore, the value of the homes with this drywall has plummeted in value. Residents in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Virginia (VA) have been especially affected by the drywall problem. Lawsuits have been filed, but many Chinese companies just ignore the litigation. For example, Taishan Gypsum, which is owned by the Chinese government, has failed to respond to a class action suit brought by home builders that used their toxic drywall.
Another example is the recall of Mattel toys that were found to have excessive amounts of lead paint. Mattel, which is based in California (CA), had to pay a $2.1 million fine for violating the federal ban on lead paint in toys, according to USA Today. What about the Chinese manufacturers? Where is the multi-million dollar fine against them?
There is where the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2009 (S. 1606) comes in. This bill was introduced by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL). The goal is to make it easier to hold foreign manufacturers accountable in the U.S. civil justice system which would put them on an even playing field with American manufacturers. The bill would accomplish this by mandating that any foreign manufacturer establish registered agents in the U.S. who are authorized to accept “service of process” (i.e. legal notice) against the manufacturers.
This legislation makes a lot of sense and is long overdue given our global economic system. It’s patently unfair for foreign companies to sell shoddy and toxic products (which could be deadly) to U.S. consumers while being able to avoid liability under the protection of foreign legal loopholes. I hope this bill gets passed and becomes law in the near future.
About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers.