Legislation recently introduced in the United States Senate could help homeowners haul foreign manufacturers of allegedly defective Chinese drywall into court. The Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2009, introduced by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D- RI), Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), seeks to make it easier to bring foreign companies before American courts. The bill would require each foreign manufacturer, whose drywall is sold in the United States, to retain a business representative in at least one state in the Union. This representative would serve as the foreign manufacturer’s agent for the service of lawsuits. The Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America support the bill.
Difficulties with effecting service on foreign defendants have come to the attention of Judge Eldon Fallon, the federal district court judge overseeing the multi-district, Chinese drywall litigation (MDL). In a recent status conference, Judge Fallon asked foreign defendants to waive formal, foreign service requirements, making clear that they eventually would be required to defend the homeowners’ lawsuits:
"The train is leaving, folks, and you’re not going to be able to catch up to it. The MDL is going to get it eventually; you might as well shortcut it. I think it’s to everybody’s advantage that you get into this as quickly as possible."