The Associated Press has reported that another recall of Chinese made products has been ordered. This time the recall is at the behest of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and concerns approximately 255,000 Chinese tires manufactured by Hangzhou Zhongce that reportedly have a tire tread safety defect. The tires were imported by Foreign Tire Sales, Inc., which then shipped them to distributors before they were sold at the retail level to consumers. According to the AP:
Foreign Tire Sales was sued May 4 by the families of two men killed when a van they were riding in crashed near the town of Jim Thorpe, Pa., in August 2006. The driver and another passenger in the van are also suing.
In response, Foreign Tire Sales, Inc. has sued Hangzhou Zhongce in U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey, alleging that the Chinese manufacturer changed the design of the tires so that they did not include a large enough “gum strip”, a safety feature that holds the belts of the tire together. The suits demonstrate the importance of retaining strong strict liability product defect laws instead of changing them to limit a consumer’s right to seek redress from just the at fault company, which in this case, if established, would be Hangzhou Zhongce. The suits reveal a system that works. The consumer, who has little clout and few resources, is unable to directly hold the Chinese manufacturer accountable, whereas the seller/importer, which has clout, resources and can procure insurance coverage to hedge its risk, can seek contribution from the Chinese manufacturer. If the consumer had no U.S. entity from which to seek a remedy, there would be no accountability as the U.S. importer would simply blame the Chinese manufacturer, which would likely thumb its nose at a lone consumer injured by its defective product.