The Chinese Poison Train Is Impervious To Lawsuits

Don’t try to sue the Chinese Poison Train. It won’t work. American victims of tainted Chinese products have found it nearly impossible to litigate against companies based in China. There are roadblocks at every step in the process: Americans can only sue Chinese companies that do business in the U.S.; phantom companies that exist only on paper refuse to hand over key documents; and, even if a consumer can win a default judgment, no treaty compels China to respect rulings from U.S. courts. From the Washington Post:

Ching estimates that a lawsuit against a Chinese company typically lasts 10 years and costs five times as much as a normal case.

“If it’s a small or medium manufacturer, it’s not even worth considering suing them. It’s not about the merits of the case, they could be dead liable, but it would be too difficult, too lengthy, too expensive,” he said.

The roadblocks to suing a Chinese company have diverted most liability lawsuits to U.S. importers and wholesalers. Litigation lawyers say that while they have seen a spike in the number of inquiries about liability suits, most of the more than 100 pending suits filed over Chinese products target only the American or Canadian importer, the wholesaler or the retailer of the product.

Importers and wholesalers are only middlemen; suing them produces cash, not change. The companies truly responsible for causing pain and suffering slip away unharmed, free to do business, free to harm others. So what can American consumers do?

The most cost-effective way to hold a Chinese manufacturer responsible, said Cohen, may not be through the courts. “Publicity may be the best weapon for anyone who can’t afford litigation,” he said.

Liability Lawyers Struggle to Pierce the Chinese Curtain [Washington Post]
(Photo: Petr Ruzicka)


Edit Your Comment

  1. maxmax says:

    Importers and wholesalers are only middlemen; suing them produces cash, not change.

    I couldn’t disagree more. Importers and wholesalers are the only ones who have an understanding of both the intended quality of the product they ordered from China, and what they actually received. They have a duty as representatives of the product to perform due-diligence, such as:

    -Making sure the product was produced in a responsible way (eg. no slave or child labor)
    -Testing samples of the product to insure compliance with safety and environmental standards
    -Using reputable Chinese suppliers that are traceable and accountable to the world market

    Unfortunately, until both China and the US step up their regulatory efforts, civil litigation against all available “cars” in the “poison train” will be the only way to insure a safe marketplace.

  2. 5h17h34d says:

    Well then, sue the retailer that sold it to the consumer. After all they have a duty to ensure that the goods they are selling are not poison. They will soon learn there is a price to pay for buying cheap goods from a country that doesn’t care. (Are you listening Walmart?)

  3. lowlight69 says:

    its all a bit missed up. while i think the Chinese companies should be held responsible, if you can’t get to them then i think going after the wholesalers and retailers is legitimate.

    not that i am a big fan of government intervention but i think some legislation concerning food imports would be a good thing. i think it is obvious that china is not going to change, at least we can… we also need people to enforce new and existing laws.

  4. jgodsey says:

    can we sue the FDA?

  5. Hawk07 says:

    “PROPAGANDA BY THE BOOOOSH ADMINISTRATION!!! ARGGHHHH!!!!” – Random Chinese government official

  6. Hawk07 says:

    BTW – Aren’t the Chinese set to sell cars in the US? Wonderful… :)

  7. timmus says:

    One big problem is that Americans are enamored with cheapass products, and the only cheapass products that exist are nearly all Made In China. It seems there needs to be some sort of re-education or cultural change set in motion for buying for quality. Unfortunately, except for that fraction of people who are Consumer Reports subscribers, cheapness has become solidly entrenched in American buying habits. I think the train will continue full speed, unfortunately.

  8. This is not the only problem with Chinese companies. Virtually all foreign companies are difficult to sue. The legal fees of filing lawsuits in both US and foreign countries alone will give consumer a second thought. Plus, while US has consumer protection laws, in many other countries there are not, at least not as strictly enforced. Then you will have to factor in local government’s court corruption, where judges can be easily bribed.


  9. nequam says:

    @timmus: Well said, … um… Abe.

  10. homerjay says:

    In my opinion we need to hit them where it hurts. We all need to begin boycotting chinese restaurants- starting after dinner tonight.

  11. miburo says:

    This is a surprise? This is pretty much the case with any country, not just China.

    And like the guy states, Really cheap prices and goods usually turns up less quality goods. Americans are known for their love of cheap disposable goods. Not that, that is a bad thing but you have to understand the consequences that can come from that.

    Everyone says more legislation ! more regulation ! but what happens in conjunction with that? Usually more taxes or price added to the item to cover that legislation and or regulation.

  12. Ncisfan says:

    Looks like we’ve got an incurable case of China Syndrome!

  13. SilverStar95 says:

    Is it just me, or is there a rather severe double standard in play, here?

    A few cases of mad cow in Canada, in animals that never made it to the market, and the US slams the border on beef for about 5 years. Even though no one was hurt, none of the meat made it into the marketplace.

    China develops a very severe case of bad PR over horrible quality control and toxic materials in food and good products, and the US government doesn’t make a step to prevent the products from entering the country. People are being affected, they’re being hurt in ways they may not notice for years to come, and the government still stands there with wide open arms and tells the Chinese government to do their worst?

    There seems to be a rather severe disconnect between logic and reality going on here, wouldn’t you agree?

  14. DerrickKwan says:

    You americans are in love with suing ppl, Timmus is right you are love cheap products…here is an idea, if you don’t think product from China is safe, stop buying it.