Andrew Cochran May 17, 2013, 9:17am


Every day, American consumers are vulnerable to injury or death from dangerous foreign products manufactured abroad. We've read and seen numerous stories about poisonous drywall and toys manufactured overseas, with no compliance with our consumer products standards. While U.S. manufacturers must comply with our laws, safety regulations, and judicial system, foreign manufacturers can skimp on safety in order to rush a product to market, knowing there is little to no threat of legal recourse for an unsafe product sold in the United States.


American businesses have an incentive to produce quality goods because they will be held liable by our civil justice system. Foreign companies, on the other hand, have no such incentive because it is often difficult or impossible to subject them to the jurisdiction of U.S.courts. These manufacturers are able to avoid accountability to U.S. consumers while continuing to line their pockets with profits and export billions of dollars worth of merchandise to all 50 states.


Foreign manufacturers should have to play by the same rules as American manufacturers and not be able to escape responsibility because they are beyond the reach of our judicial system. There's a new push by Congress to change the status quo and hold foreign manufacturers accountable.


The "Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act" was introduced today by Congressmen Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Mike Turner (R-OH), with Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) as an original cosponsor. This bill is similar to bills introduced in previous sessions, and I hope a bipartisan majority of Congressmen and Senators support it.


The bill would make it easier for an injured consumer to serve the foreign manufacturer with notice of pending claims, so the consumer can proceed with a lawsuit. Foreign manufacturers or producers of covered products would be required to register an agent, located in a state where the company does business, who would be able to accept service of process for civil and regulatory claims. By registering the agent, the foreign manufacturer or producer also consents to state and federal jurisdiction for civil and regulatory claims. Covered products include drugs, devices, cosmetics, biological products, consumer products, chemical substances, and pesticides manufactured or produced outside of the United States.


The bill is good for U.S. businesses and consumers. Our companies should not be forced to unfairly compete against foreign businesses that can easily skirt the law. As in the case of toxic drywall, U.S. businesses also end up shouldering monetary losses when they cannot hold foreign suppliers accountable for dangerous products. The bill would make it easier forU.S. consumers injured in the United States to hold foreign manufacturers accountable for the injuries they cause. Why should a consumer have to travel to China to serve the defendant when the defendant does business in the U.S. and has an agent-importer located here? Why should Chinese law apply to a U.S. consumer injured in their own home?


The "Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act" addresses those problems. Call your Congressman and ask him to support the bill.


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