Legislation Would Aid Consumers in Holding Foreign Manufacturers Accountable for Dangerous Products

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For Immediate Release: August 7, 2009

Contact: Jen Fuson
202-965-3500, ext. 369
media.replies@justice.org

Legislation Would Aid Consumers in Holding Foreign Manufacturers Accountable for Dangerous Products

Chinese Drywall Fiasco Highlights Need for Greater Accountability with Foreign Products

Washington, DC–Foreign manufacturers today are able to skirt the law, exporting billions of dollars of their products to the U.S. without facing accountability for product defects that injure or kill Americans.  One example is the 500 million pounds of drywall, made in China, which is plaguing homeowners throughout the country because of the sulfuric gases the drywall emits.  Homeowners face multiple obstacles holding the Chinese manufacturers responsible for the destruction the drywall is causing.  

But the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2009 (S. 1606), introduced today by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), will making it easier to hold foreign manufacturers accountable in the U.S. civil justice system, putting them on a level playing field with American manufacturers.

“Foreign corporations shouldn’t be able to export their products to our country without following our laws too,” said American Association for Justice President Anthony Tarricone.  “Both American businesses and consumers are jeopardized when a foreign manufacturer makes a defective product.  This bill ensures foreign manufacturers that profit from our marketplace are also held accountable when their products are defective.”

Currently, bringing a case against a foreign manufacturer requires servicing the company in their country, according to the rules of service.  This often requires translating the papers into the language of the native country and tracking down the companies’ foreign address, adding additional time and expense to the legal process. 

The Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2009 does several things:

  • Requires manufacturers to have an “agent” located in at least one state where the company does business that would accept service of process for any civil and regulatory claims.
  • Companies would consent to state and federal jurisdiction, holding foreign manufacturers accountable to those judicial standards.

The legislation covers products regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), such as children’s toys; the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including prescription drugs and medical devices; and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), like pesticides. 

“Finally, foreign corporations will be on notice that their products must meet our standards and be subject to our legal system,” added Tarricone.  “Not only will American businesses be on a level-playing field with foreign corporations, but consumers will now have the added security that our civil justice system offers.”

Aside from the toxic drywall produced, this legislation would cover imported products seen in the news like poisonous toothpaste that contained diethylene glycol, children’s toys and jewelry coated with toxic levels of lead paint, and pet food that contained melamine, a compound used to make plastic.

 

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