Pennsylvania Product Liability Lawyer Filing Lawsuits Against Foreign Manufacturers Whose Products Injure Local People
by Raymond M. Bily, Esquire
Foreign manufacturers of defective products can be sued in state or federal courts but doing so sometimes presents special challenges. Foreign auto makers, industrial product manufacturers and consumer product makers and their intermediaries are not beyond the reach of U.S. courts if they put defective products into the stream of commerce. A manufacturer who has offices or advertises in a state generally has sufficient contact to be sued in state courts. Less clear is when a product is manufactured overseas and comes into a state indirectly. Courts generally inquire whether the manufacturer had some knowledge or expectation that the product would be purchased by consumers in the particular state.
Assuming jurisdiction is proper, a more difficult problem can involve service of process. Foreign corporations are savvy litigants. They understand that mere distance alone can be used to create the perception that injured consumers will have a very difficult time pursuing them in U.S. courts.
The perception begins when the corporation insists on having service of process in accordance with the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra Judicial Documents in Civil or Criminal Matters. The most common method of service of process recognized by the Hague is for the initiating process to be transcribed in the foreign corporations native language then served upon a receiving central authority. A recent case filed by our firm against a Japanese auto maker was several times the costs of suing a U.S. corporate defendant. Language barriers can present themselves through out the process of litigation, including depositions and interrogatories. At deposition it is often necessary to have interpreters who are highly skilled and adept, sometimes in local dialects.