Defective Products Can Sometimes Cause Personal Injury: Tips on How to Identify the Manufacturer & Recover Damages

Douglas E. Chabot

Imagine you purchase a power saw from your local hardware supplier, and the product turns out to be defective and causes you injury. In the normal course of events, you can bring a lawsuit against the seller of the product and the manufacturer of the product for the harm you suffered. One modern wrinkle in this analysis is that many products are manufactured by corporations in other countries, a.k.a “foreign corporations.” The foreign manufacture of components, or of your entire product, poses two problems for ensuring a successful recovery for your injuries.

First, foreign manufacturers may not be subject to jurisdiction in our state of Rhode Island or any other United States court. (This is a larger issue that will be reserved for a future blog post.) Second, simply identifying foreign manufacturers can be difficult because of product labeling, language barriers, various corporate entities, and the vast global network for the distribution of consumer products. If you cannot file a lawsuit against the manufacturer or even identify who they are, you may not be able to fully recover damages for the harm you suffered.

Helpful Tips to Navigate the Foreign Manufacturer Process:

The first step in identifying these foreign manufacturers is by looking at the product itself, in this case, the power saw. Each component of the product will typically display some identifying information about its manufacturer. For example, the power saw’s blade may be manufactured by one company, but the motor by another company. One manufacturer could be based in the United States while the other may be based in China. A simple Google search of the brand name and manufacturer’s names should provide you with details as to the location of the companies involved in the manufacture of your product. You can also search the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website or contact the CPSC for information about the product. The Library of Congress also offers some tips on how to identify foreign businesses.

The second step to identifying these foreign manufacturers is to fill in the distribution chain of the product starting with the finished product you bought at the store and going back, step-by-step, through each component to find the distributors and eventually the original manufacturer. The most effective way to accomplish this is through discovery in a lawsuit. Again, you should know the brand name of the product that harmed you and should know the seller of the product, assuming you purchased it. After you file suit against the seller and/or brand name manufacturer, your attorney can issue requests for production and interrogatories. The seller and/or brand name manufacturer will be compelled to provide you with the names of the companies that supplied the product or its components. This shifts the burden to these defendants to sort through the complex corporate structures and probable language barriers to arrive at the various distributors and original manufacturers. You can then add these manufacturers and/or distributors to your lawsuit and potentially increase the available resources to compensate you for your injuries.

The identification of all the manufacturers of the product that harmed you, both foreign and domestic, is crucial for ensuring that adequate resources are available to compensate you for your injuries and that you know all the pertinent information about the manufacturing of the defective product. If you were injured by a defective product or have any questions about a potentially defective product, the attorneys at Decof, Barry, Mega & Quinn, P.C. are available to assist you.

Photo: License: Creative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0 Creator: NY –