CPSC Legislation: Let a Million Lawsuits Bloom

By July 21, 2008Briefly Legal

It looks like the final version of H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act, could come to the House and Senate floors as early as this week.

Conferees met on July 17, getting down to the more disputed issues, and convene again on Tuesday, the National Whistleblowers Center reports in a news release decrying the possible of “sham reforms.”

Consumer Affairs summarizes the agreed-upon provisions in this online report. Included is state attorneys general authority to enforce existing consumer protection laws (not as sweeping, and therefore as lawsuit friendly, as the Senate version).

For business, a significant problem remains the provisions establishing a national database for complaints. Again, from Consumer Affairs, “Establishment of a public consumer product safety database:” Within 2 years, the CPSC would establish a searchable database to include any reports of injuries, illness, death or risk related to consumer products submitted by consumers and other agencies. Upon receiving a complaint, the CPSC has five days to submit the complaint to the manufacturer. The manufacturer then has 10 days to respond. The complaint and manufacturer’s response, if available, would then be posted on the database. The CPSC would have the authority to remove a complaint if it is found to be inaccurate.”

So it’s not quite the invitation for the free-for-all chumming of the lawsuit waters as originally proposed. Think of it more as targeted trap baiting.

Apparently there’s also continued disagreement on phthlates, i.e., whether a federal ban is warranted. It’s not, scientifically or economically.  We direct the reader again to this excellent Fortune report, “Wal-Mart: The new FDA” about the activist/lawyer/politician combine against chemicals.

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