A bill of interest to many dealers and distributors has been reintroduced in Congress: The Innocent Sellers Fairness Act. HR 2746 seeks “to prevent undue disruption of interstate commerce by limiting civil actions brought against persons whose only role with regard to a product in the stream of commerce is as a lawful seller of the product.” The bill was introduced on July 19 by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX).

The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) commends the congressman for his reintroduction of the bill.

“NLBMDA applauds Rep. Farenthold for his effort to bring balance to our legal system by recognizing that business owners that only sell products, and are not involved in the manufacturing process, should not be held liable for defects that they did not create,” says NLBMDA chairman Chuck Bankston, president of Bankston Lumber in Barnesville, Ga.

The NLBMDA cites a 2010 study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, which points out that small businesses bear 81 percent of business tort liability costs.

The high costs of defending product liability lawsuits have caused many building material dealers to settle, regardless of the merits of the case, says the association.

“No amount of care can free a seller from disproportionate product liability, and plaintiffs’ lawyers know this—they routinely sue anyone in the chain of distribution of a product, often forcing settlements out of otherwise innocent merchants,” says NLBMDA president and CEO Michael O’Brien. “These abusive product liability cases are part of a growing litigation burden on our nation’s small businesses and our economy. This legislation will bring some sanity back to our legal system and we urge Congress to act swiftly on H.R. 2746.”

This isn’t the first time such a bill has made its way before Congress. Multiple versions have been introduced through the past several years. NLBMDA has been a supporter of previous versions as well.

What is your view on the proposed legislation? Post a comment here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *