New Legislation Aims to Hold Foreign Manufacturers Accountable for Dangerous Products
A bipartisan bill named the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2009 was introduced in the U.S. Senate yesterday by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.). The bill will serve as a way to finally close legal loopholes that currently allow foreign manufacturers to escape accountability in the U.S. justice system when their defective products injure U.S. consumers. There are a number of recent examples of defective foreign products that have injured Americans including toxic Chinese drywall, poisonous toothpaste, children's toys coated with toxic lead paint, and poisonous pet food, just to name a few.
According to Whitehouse, two major hurdles to proper accountability are the inability to serve legal process abroad and the ability of foreign manufacturers to evade jurisdiction of U.S. courts (even if properly served). The new legislation would allow legal papers to be served inside the U.S. on registered agents of foreign manufactures, which is a far cry from the very lengthy and expensive process that currently exists to sue foreign corporations. The new legislation would also require U.S. federal agencies, including the FDA, to pass regulations requiring that foreign manufacturers register an agent to accept service of process if the product is regulated by their agency. Finally, the bill would require foreign manufacturers to consent to the jurisdiction of the courts in the U.S. state where their registered agent is located.