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)