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Banding together: How a coalition can protect consumers against defective products

We live in a world where unexpected worst-case scenarios can occur, such as earplugs that cause hearing loss or pesticides that cause cancer. Consumers often implicitly trust the products they use, and when that trust is broken, manufacturers, distributors or designers need to be held accountable – and prevented from causing future harm.

As personal injury attorneys, we advocate for the consumer’s rights in every defective product case with the goal of encouraging safer policies and practices. However, with the vast number of products constantly in production, advocating for a safer America also benefits from the collective efforts of a range of stakeholders – from local agencies to state attorneys general.

In April 2020, Tennessee became the latest state to join a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in 39 states, including our home state of Washington, and the District of Columbia to hold manufacturers accountable for defective products. By banding together, the coalition enables states to collectively assert their legal authority to protect their citizens.

A Ford Motor Company case in Minnesota and Montana is an excellent example of the coalition’s impact. For years, consumers have been able to use their local courts to hold manufacturers accountable – even if the manufacturer was located elsewhere –but now, Ford is seeking to challenge that.

Last year, Ford argued that lawsuits can only be filed in the states where their vehicles were designed, manufactured or first sold. This claim would prohibit drivers from pursuing litigation in the state where an accident actually occurred. After the Minnesota and Montana Supreme Courts ruled in favor of consumers, Ford challenged these rulings to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many worried that Ford’s challenge could make claims more difficult for consumers to file, while also forcing retailers or distributers to shoulder the blame while underlying manufacturing issues persist. Fearing this ruling would set an unreasonable precedent for consumers, the coalition filed an amicus brief, urging the Supreme Court to side with the interests of the majority of states and consumers. The brief reads, “The states… have an interest in ensuring that their citizens may bring suits in their courts for injuries sustained within their borders.”

On October 7, 2020, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case. The decision, which should be issued in the coming months, could significantly impact product liability litigation and the ways consumers can file product liability lawsuits.

While the coalition continues to collaborate on consumer rights issues, Luvera Law Firm attorneys also remain focused on advocating for lasting justice for our clients, as we know first-hand how challenging it can be for consumers hold large corporations responsible for defective products.

If you or a loved one have been injured by a defective product, we invite you to read more on our website, and if you’re interested in learning how we’re helping clients navigate the challenges of the pandemic, be sure to check out attorney Deborah Martin’s five key tips for protecting your case.

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