Posted by Gary Burger on December 17, 2015
John and his family were at the Union Station Mall and saw salesman blithely flying ZoomCopters and catching them. He purchased two and took them home to play with his boys. A couple of months later, he was flying a ZoomCopter when it suddenly lurched back to him and the rotator blade struck and detached his cornea. The product had completely insufficient warnings about the type of dangers the flying patterns and sharp blades of the helicopter and did not warn people to use safety glasses. The challenge in the case was identifying the manufacturer, which we were never able to do. However, under §402 of the Restatement of Torts and Missouri law, a distributor is liable for defect of the property unless it is able to identify and bring into the case the original manufacturer of the product.
We were able to get the original retailer and two distributors up the chain, but then lost the trial. Products manufactured in China have recently come in the news, but in this case we encountered them first hand. Although I translated the Petition to Chinese and twice attempted to serve the corporation in China that we thought manufactured the product, we were never able to get service and bring that corporation into the case. Further, manufacturers in China switch and change about as often as people change clothes. A cheap plastic product can be manufactured at one location by one company, then the next week be manufactured in an entirely different place by a different company. It is difficult, if not impossible to track, and it can be even more difficult to get Chinese manufacturers to comply with international standards of manufacturing and safety.