Unprotected by Texas law
Publication: The Houston Chronicle
A LOT of public concern is being expressed about the safety of products made in China and Third World countries. I wonder if the public would also be concerned if it realized that the Texas Legislature has effectively eliminated our right to go to court for injuries or deaths caused by these products?
A young mother recently brought her 2-year-old son into my law office. A finger on his dominant hand had been amputated when his finger was caught in the metal pinch point of a children's toy set. Metal pinch points are a recognized hazard, and they violate the minimum safety standards for children's products. Nonetheless, a well-known national retailer had sold this unsafe toy set to the boy's mother.
He is facing expensive reconstructive surgery and protracted therapy. By the most optimistic medical prognosis, he will always be disfigured. His opportunities to excel in certain sports, musical activities and professions will always be limited. His mother needed help, and she wanted to make sure that this never happened to another child.
Unfortunately, the toy set was manufactured in China. I had to explain to this mother that in the name of protecting the "innocent retailer," the Texas Legislature in 2003 granted immunity to every business that had profited from the sale of this unsafe product, except for the shop somewhere in China that actually made this toy set.
Sellers, even the largest national retailers, distributors, wholesalers and importers, have no liability for the harm caused by the products they sell in Texas. They cannot be held accountable, so long as they can identify the "responsible" manufacturer in court.
It's too late to help this boy. Every day, however, more children and their families are put at risk by unsafe products manufactured in foreign countries. I hope that our Texas Legislature will one day see fit to limit the protection of the "innocent retailer" law to the "mom and pop" stores that this law was originally intended to protect.
National retailers and large corporations are in a position to require that the products which they import and sell meet minimum safety standards and are adequately insured. Their nationwide advertising campaigns encourage us to trust their products, and the Texas Legislature should allow us to hold them accountable for our trust.
(Letter to the Editor)