WASHINGTON – Congressman Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) reintroduced a bill known as the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act that is designed to shield vendors who do not actually design or manufacture the products they sell from defect-related litigation.
“If you just put something on your shelf, you haven’t done anything wrong,” Farenthold told The Record.
According to Farenthold’s office, the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act states that “no seller of any product shall be liable for personal injury, monetary loss or damage to property arising out of an accident or transaction involving such product,” unless the injured party can claim the seller met one of several criteria.
The criteria that make a seller liable for damages include that the seller manufactured, participated in the design or participated in the installation of the product, changed or made guarantees on the product not authorized by the manufacturer, knew of the defect because of a recall or knew when the product was supplied and made a false claim about the product that was not approved by the manufacturer.
The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) said in a statement that the legislation was originally written by Jimmy Duncan (R-TN) and Lamar Smith (R-TX).
“Unfair and unfounded lawsuits disproportionately affect small business,” NLBMDA said in the statement. “According to a study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, small businesses bear 81 percent of business tort liability costs. While state reforms have helped, a federal solution is important to ensure uniformity for suppliers who often operate in multiple states.”
Farenthold said he reintroduced the bill, which “never made it to the floor last time,” because he believes the parties in question still need to be protected.
“The issue remains the same,” Farenthold said. “(The Innocent Sellers Fairness Act) puts these people out of the chain of liability.”
Of course, Farenthold said there is one more benefit for those who would be covered under the legislation.
“Nobody wants to get sued,” he said.