08.07.09

Senate Bill Holds Foreign Manufacturers Accountable for Defective Products

Washington, D.C. - Bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate would reduce the legal hurdles facing Americans injured by products manufactured outside the United States. The Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2009, sponsored by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and cosponsored by U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), would protect American businesses and consumers by bringing foreign manufacturers within the scope of the American justice system.

"American businesses and consumers harmed by defective foreign products need justice, and they don't get it when foreign manufacturers use technical legal defenses to avoid compensating those they have injured," said Whitehouse, a former U.S. Attorney and Attorney General for Rhode Island.

"This legislation is an important step toward addressing the problems that arise when foreign manufacturers escape accountability and place harmful or defective products into the U.S. market. A U.S. manufacturer is subject to full accountability to ensure that people only purchase and use safe products. This bill would help to make sure consumers are similarly protected from foreign products, and that there is a level playing field for both domestic and foreign manufacturers. I thank Senator Whitehouse for his leadership on this important issue," said Sessions.

"American consumers ought to know that they have legal protections from harmful products on store shelves - regardless of where that product was made. Loopholes in current law allow many foreign manufacturers to escape accountability when their products injure Americans. This bill will close those loopholes and ensure that all companies will be held to account for defective or harmful products," Durbin said.

In May, Whitehouse, in cooperation with Ranking Member Sessions, held a hearing on accountability for foreign manufacturers in his Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts. During the hearing, witnesses - including Professor Louise Ellen Teitz of Roger Williams University School of Law - testified about the delays and expense associated with serving foreign manufacturers with a lawsuit and establishing jurisdiction. The Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2009 would eliminate those hurdles, ensuring that Americans can serve necessary legal papers on foreign manufacturers and that those companies do not evade the jurisdiction of American courts.

The bill is supported by Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America.

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