Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Everyone gets sued
For dangerous product


Dangerous Chinese products in news - again


AN ARTICLE FROM ADVISEN FPN titled First-party coverage for toxic flooring cases: Chinese-manufactured drywall cases may provide insight reminds manufacturers and merchants that if they want to avoid the hassle and expense of legal actions against them, they need to pro-actively test vendor-provided components.

Business Law 101 rules that if you sue over a faulty or dangerous product, you sue EVERYONE in a search for "deep pockets."

While the Advisen FPN article focuses on the latest Chinese import - flooring - it also sees a relationship to another Chinese product that brought both dangers to health and a lot of legal activity - drywall.

The article fails to mention dangerous toys and tires made in China, both of which caused a flurry of legal action.

The question for manufacturers that use vendor-supplied components in products bearing their name, and to a slightly lesser extent, merchants who sell the products, is not "Is the product safe?" but "Did we do due diligence to prove the product is safe.

The U.S. government generally is quality and safety conscious (one exception being the Challenger disaster).

I once worked for a company (Leslie Controls) that made valves; its primary customer was the U.S. Navy. The valves ranged in size from 1/4-inch diameter to 48-inch diameter, "diameter" being the size of the hole through which fluid or gas passed.

All vendor products were sampled. No exceptions. Small threaded fasteners (a/k/a "screws"), gaskets, metal castings - nothing got past Leslie's inspectors.

Samples ranged from a very small percentage of a vendor's product to inspection of each unit. The vendor's past history with Leslie determined the sample size.

And then the Navy sent ITS inspector; the sailors even inspected the product's documentation.

If a Leslie product failed at least the company could prove it did its "due diligence." Needless to write, the more critical the valve, the more severe the inspection of parts and finished product. Leslie valves are used to catapult planes off carriers and to control a submarine's dive and surfacing, among other things.

If a valve failed, Leslie might still have to defend itself in court, but it could prove it DID do its "due diligence" and that might be sufficient to at least reduce its liability.

I've written in the past that manufacturers have an obligation to assure that the parts used in their products are safe and suitable for the product's function.

I've also written about a merchant's obligation to inspect incoming product.

The first 35 mm camera I ever bought was a - full name - Honeywell Asahi Pentax H3v.

This was back in the day when Japanses products were still of questionable quality.

Honeywell, in order to protect its name, inspected each Pentax that bore its logo on the pentaprism.

My H3v went from my hands to a friend's, then to the friend's son-in-law. Were it not for the convenience of no-film digital cameras, I suspect the H3v still would be in use.

I suspect Honeywell home thermostats are made in China, but because I know Honeywell's reputation for protecting its name, I would reluctantly buy this Chinese product.

The old expression "the best defense if a good offense" applies to products as well. The best assurance that a product safely meets its purpose is for it to be checked at the component level and checked again as a finished product. If the merchant selling the product is less than 100% certain the company putting its name on the product performs its own QA/QC, the merchant, especially names such as Wal-Mart, Target, Lumber Liquidators, Boeing, and Northrop-Grumman need to do their own QA/QC sampling. It makes no difference if the product is a small toy (covered in lead-based paint) or flooring or a jumbo jet, being able to prove due diligence is critical.

No comments: