Oftentimes plaintiff’s lawyers in the United States will shy away from taking cases involving defective products because they do not want to become caught in a web of foreign laws and regulations. However, lawyers should not necessarily turn down cases for that reason alone. Indeed, strategic use of U.S. import regulations can be extremely useful for getting plaintiffs significant information about defective products and establishing liability – without the need to resort to foreign courtrooms.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have enacted minimum safety standards that foreign products must comply with before they can be brought into the country. The key is this: attorneys can file claims against the importer company itself for the shortcomings of an imported product. Import companies can then be held liable for defective products because of their role in the chain of distribution.
Not surprisingly, the import companies will often try to shift the blame squarely onto the manufacturer, but such “blame the manufacturer” arguments are in direct conflict with many of the obligations imposed on importers by the federal government. In order for an attorney to properly pursue justice for their clients injured by dangerous foreign products, the attorney must consider the various potentially liable parties, including the importer. Note that under the Consumer Product Safety Act, a “manufacturer” is defined as “any person who manufactures or imports a consumer product”. Therefore, under the Act the importers are just as liable as the manufacturer when a dangerous imported product causes injury to an unsuspecting consumer.
The Interagency Working Group on Import Safety has indicated that importers should create detailed contracts laying out processes to ensure product safety, conduct site visits, review and approve the manufacturing process, set policies for quality control, and perform product tests. These regulations can assist attorneys in making negligence and strict liability claims against product importers, thus allowing the attorney to obtain compensation for his or her injured client without having to file an action in a foreign court.
Although the importer will inevitably attempt to point the finger at the foreign manufacturer, the fact remains that in light of the relevant federal regulations, an importer’s blind reliance on foreign manufacturers is unacceptable and gives rise to an independent cause of action against the importer for which the manufacturer cannot be blamed.
If you have been injured by a defective product, whether manufactured in the United States or in a foreign country, call the attorneys at the Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC today. We will be happy to provide a free consultation and answer any questions that you may have.