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House Bill Would Subject Foreign Manufacturers to Liability in U.S. Courts for Defective Products Sold in the US

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Many recent news reports have documented the recurring problem of defective goods manufactured in China that are being sold in the United States and injuring Americans. A recent article published in the Ohio State Bar Association’s magazine, Ohio Lawyer, by Douglas Oliver entitled “China’s shortcomings with product safety and satisfaction have left Ohio lawyers turning to Ohio’s product liability law for answers” explains that Chinese products account for a disproportionately high percentage of U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalls. Mr. Oliver explains that this is in part attributable to a phenomenon known as “quality fade” in which manufacturers secretly and deliberately increase their profits by reducing the quality of materials they use. This decrease in quality is purposefully gradual to keep U.S. importers from noticing these changes.

Obtaining U.S. jurisdiction over these foreign manufacturers and subjecting them to liability in an American court can be problematic. It certainly seems unjust to permit these foreign manufacturers to make large profits by selling their defective goods to the American public while at the same time evading responsibility for the injuries they cause. This injustice has not escaped Congress’s attention. On May 1, 2008, Rep. Linda Sanchez, a democrat from California, introduced the Protecting Americans from Unsafe Foreign Products Act (H.R. 5913). This bill would make serving foreign manufacturers who knew or should have known that their products would be sold or used in the United States much easier. In a hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, an Atlanta attorney detailed his two year legal battle with a Chinese manufacturer of a defectively designed scooter that killed his client’s thirteen year old daughter. While claiming to have sold $120 million in goods in the U.S., this manufacturer resisted the lawyer’s attempts to seek justice for his clients in an American court.

Foreign manufacturers who profit from selling their goods to American consumers must be forced to compensate Americans for injuries caused by their products. This bill is important step for ensuring safety and justice to the American consuming public.