In his recent article, "Made in China: Consumer Product Lawsuits Imported to the United States", Seattle defense lawyer and IADC member Gregory Shelton offers American importers several good suggestions for avoiding potential liability from imported products. These include: (1) requiring the exporter to comply with all applicable U.S. product quality standards and product safety regulations; (2) obtaining legal counsel in the exporter's home jurisdiction; (3) requiring the exporter to obtain appropriate insurance coverage from an American or international insurer that will protect the importer in the event of a recall or lawsuit; and (4) retaining good legal counsel early. I would add to Greg's checklist: (5) having an independent U.S. consultant available to test, if necessary, the components of imported products, particularly if an American consumer reports a complaint to the company or to the CPSC. Early independent product evaluation can be critical for an importer in planning its next steps, such as whether to perform a recall or halt future shipments until an issue can be addressed. There are many good consultant firms to chose from. One excellent consultant up-to-speed on the new CPSC requirements is Exponent.
However, we disagree with Mr. Shelton when he argues that Chinese imports are more likely to result in lawsuits or recalls than imports from other countries. There is simply no empirical evidence to support this assertion. To the contrary, China has made enormous progress, particularly over the last year, to police its domestic suppliers. To blame China for the spate of recalls over the last couple of years is to ignore the past lack of adequate funding for the CPSC, the agency that provides regulatory oversight of consumer products. Moreover, blaming China results in Americans turning a blind eye to problems in our domestic product supply chain.