In 2020, the value of goods imported to the United States from China totaled $434.7 billion. That same year, China was our largest supplier of imported goods. Thus, there is no question that many consumer goods are imported from foreign entities.
What then happens when something goes wrong with an imported product?
When goods harm consumers, the consumer may seek counsel and assert a claim against the domestic product seller for damages. In such cases, the seller is often left to defend itself in a product liability case over a product it neither manufactured nor designed.
To join the manufacturer of a product originating from a foreign entity, you can join the foreign entity responsible for the product as a Third-Party Defendant. However, you should also be prepared to do your homework and recognize joinder of a foreign entity is no easy feat.
Below are four points of advice for rising to this challenge:
- Begin with the end in mind. Take note of the entity’s contacts with the US and examine its export and import data. Remain mindful of the fact that you must show that the entity availed itself of benefits in the United States to be subject to the court’s jurisdiction.
- Do your homework. Most countries supplying imported goods to the United States are parties to the Hauge Convention. It is essential that you understand the policies and procedures demanded by the Hauge Convention when suing a foreign entity. For example, you will need to know the specific language and dialect spoken in the foreign entity’s location. Do not assume a single dialect is spoken in all areas of a foreign country. Pre-translated model forms and instructions for requests for service and instructions for completing the form can be found on the Hauge Conference’s website.
- Research the company. Take advantage of the ‘Translate Page’ feature in Google Chrome when researching the foreign entity. Seek out data about any partners or subsidiaries it has, especially in the United States. Identifying a U.S.-based subsidiary of the foreign entity, that may be served in the alternative, can be very beneficial in successfully joining the foreign entity as a Third Party Defendant.
- File a Third-Party Petition. Don’t forget to timely file a Third-Party Petition seeking to join the foreign entity as a Third-Party Defendant.
Joining a foreign entity in a product liability action can be daunting. However, with strict adherence to the Hauge Convention requirements, a foreign entity can be joined as a Third-Party Defendant.