U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright and Mike Turner, one a Democrat and the other a Republican proposed an important bit of legislation. The bill, known as the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act, would help ensure that injured consumers could hold a foreign producer accountable for the harm their dangerous or defective products caused. Unfortunetly it was never enacted.
The Act was a critical bit of legislation given the increased portion of imported consumer products in the United States. The numbers tell the tale: in 2012, foreign manufacturers accounted for more than 78 percent of all Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalls. Despite the extraordinarily high numbers of problems with these products, it is difficult and sometimes impossible for consumers to hold these foreign companies responsible due to lax foreign safety regulations and their ability to evade the U.S. court system.
The Act would have required that foreign manufacturers or producers of certain products register an agent in a state where the company does business who would be able to accept service of process for all civil claims. This was important because by designating an agent, the foreign manufacturer would be agreeing to state and federal jurisdiction for any claims that arise from the sale and use of their products.
Currently, those trying to sue a foreign manufacturer are required to serve the company in their home country, according to the foreign rules of service. This can require expensive translation services and a sometimes lengthy process of tracking down the foreign company. The hassle of the ordeal often deters consumers from pursuing claims against these foreign manufacturers.
The products covered by the Act would have included imports that are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. The legislation would have covered a wide array of products such as pharmaceuticals, electronics, cosmetics, consumer products, chemicals and pesticides.
The bill did have bipartisan support, with more than 30 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. The hope was that the legislators realize how important it is for American consumers to be able to hold foreign manufacturers liable when the products they create cause harm here at home. Rather than hide behind foreign laws, those selling products on American soil need to answer for their mistakes in the U.S. and be subject to our justice system.