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New Products Liability Studies

Separate researchers are each releasing new reports today that discuss the importance of the civil justice system in the context of product liability claims.

Professor Andrew Popper from American University, Washington College of Law, released Defective Foreign Products In The United States. Professor Popper looks at the disturbing number of defective products that enter the United States from foreign manufacturers and how the liability system can effectively deal with those manufacturers. He concludes:

If foreign manufacturers continue to be outside the jurisdicitional reach of domestic courts, it is inevitable that plaintiffs will be left without recourse.  Foreign manufacturers who sell goods to be purchased and used in the United States ought to bear responsibility when those products fail, much the same as U.S. manufacturers.  Among other things, it is simply unfair to U.S. manufacturers to bear full responsibility for product failures when their foreign competitors can be relieved of liability solely based on the fact that they are located outside the United States.

Foreign manufacturers transgress the most basic product liability duties of care imposed on every domestic manufacturer:  to exercise reasonable care in designing, manufacturing, labeling, and warning.  Thousands of recalls send an unequivocal message.  Yet foreign manufacturers are in a preferred position.  They are both shielded by domestic tort reofrm and protected by complex and uncertain constitutional, common law, and statutory doctrines that produce the curious jurisdictional puzzle set out in this paper.  And yeet, their liability is nominal at best.

The second study, The Social Costs of Dangerous Products – An Empirical Investigation, takes a look at the costs of defective products. It does this by using case studies of Ford SUVs with Firestone tires, all terrain vehicles, and the prescription drug Baycol. The authors conclude that these three drugs alone cost nearly $4.7 billion in medical costs, lost wages, and other costs, excluding the cost of pain and suffering and other extended costs.

I think these issues are critical when talking about protecting American families and consumers.  I know that I’m probably a little biased, but I fail to see how any reasonable person can look at what the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Products Safety Commission and other regulatory bodies are doing and conclude that their oversight alone is enough to protect us.  And yet, that’s exactly what some people seek.  I don’t think it’s enough.  I think the tort system provides a very important piece to the puzzle to help protect us all.

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