The United States consumer market is no stranger to goods produced by foreign manufacturers. From cars to electronics, most Americans are likely to purchase or use products made outside of the country on a regular basis. Unfortunately, these products may not always be safe. Does an individual have any legal recourse when hurt by a dangerous or defective product that is made by a foreign company? The answer to that question is not simple. While foreign companies can technically be held accountable under United States federal laws, it is not always easy to track them down or engage them in the legal process.
What are the Types of Defects?
Product defects are generally classified into three groups, depending on where in the distribution chain the defect developed. Design defects are flaws in the inherent design of a product. It may not be sufficiently tested for safety or it may be designed poorly from the start. In this case, all items made according to a flawed design are considered defective. Think of a piece of a bureau designed in a way that makes it top-heavy and prone to tipping. Each and every piece of furniture made under these specifications will be dangerous.
Manufacturing defects occur during the assembly or construction process, despite a product having a sound design. The way a single item or group of items has been manufactured makes it inherently unsafe. An example of a manufacturing defect might be a batch of over-the-counter medications that were tainted by dangerous chemicals during the production process.
Marketing defects occur when a seemingly safe product is purchased, but a manufacturer, distributer, or retailer fails to provide adequate instructions or warnings, which can lead to someone getting hurt. Imagine if fireworks did not come with a warning, then result in burns or injuries to the user. If someone got hurt setting off fireworks, they could possibly sue the maker.
What Agencies Protect Consumers from Dangerous Products?
Americans are fortunate enough to have multiple government agencies working to ensure consumer products are made, sold, and used according to established safety standards and practices. These agencies include the following, among others:
- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
- The Environmental Protection Agency
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- The U.S Food and Drug Administration
In theory, companies who want to sell products in the United States must consent to being held accountable to the nation’s products liability laws. However, if someone waited for a package to arrive from overseas or tried to return a broken or unwanted item to a foreign company, they may realize it is not always easy to track them down.
Possible Legislation to Crack Down on Foreign Manufacturers
In July 2019, the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2019 was introduced. Motivated in part by the widespread health problems caused by toxins found in Chinese drywall, the bill was designed to make it easier to recover compensation from foreign manufacturers.
While this may seem like an idea that would be hard to oppose, the bill does have some critics. Some worry about foreign companies making it tougher for United States manufacturers and retailers to sell outside of the country. Others are concerned that companies will take their goods elsewhere, rather than face the financial risk of potential lawsuits, limiting consumer choices. At this time, the bill awaits committee consideration before it can move forward to the House and Senate.
Potential Defendants in a Defective Foreign Product Case
Without this law, there is still hope for individuals harmed by defective foreign products. A skilled products liability lawyer will evaluate all the details of a claim to determine if there are other possible defendants to hold liable. Possible defendants might include the foreign product’s importer, distributor, and retailer. Besides these potential defendants, a products liability lawyer will do all they can to locate and contact the foreign company that designed or assembled a defective product. It is possible to have multiple defendants in these cases.
What Should I Do if I Am Hurt by a Foreign Product?
While these types of cases can be challenging, they can also be successful. Countries licensed to sell goods in the United States are subject to state and federal consumer protection laws. If someone was injured by any type of product made either in the United States or in another country, the following steps can help:
- Keep the product: If possible, store the defective product in a safe place. Be sure to keep the instructions, warnings, and warranty with the product.
- Document the defects: Take photos of the defects and any injuries.
- Seek medical help: If someone was injured, seek immediate medical attention and make sure to keep all records and bills related to emergency room visits, hospitalizations, diagnosis, and medications.
- Contact a lawyer: An experienced lawyer can tackle complex foreign products liability cases.
Damages for Lawsuits Involving Dangerous Products
Like other types of personal injury claims, a victim who is hurt by a defective product may be entitled to financial damages, either through a settlement or a court verdict. That compensation might include the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Past and future medical bills
- Loss of future income
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Permanent disability
Some cases also award punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to penalize or punish a defendant and deter other companies from producing, selling, or marketing defective products in the future.
Class Action Claims for Defective Products
Products that are sold to large numbers of people are often involved in class action lawsuits. One would have to establish oneself as a member of the class action to receive money for damages. The Takata Airbag recall is a recent, well-known class action settlement involving a foreign auto parts company that manufactured dangerous airbags prone to exploding on impact. Several companies are still fighting legal claims regarding Takata airbags, while others, including Mazda, Toyota, BMW, and Subaru, have agreed to class action settlements in the multi-millions. When it comes to defective products, every case is unique. An attorney will review a victim’s case and discuss legal options. A lawyer will also recommend the next best steps to recover compensation for a victim’s losses.
Philadelphia Products Liability Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Protect the Rights of Consumers Injured by Dangerous Products
Consumers in the United States are protected by local and federal laws against dangerous products. Our Philadelphia products liability lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC are not afraid to take on manufacturers and retailers who make and sell dangerous goods. For a free consultation, call us at 215-569-8488 or complete our online form. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.