Foreign Evidence in US Product Liability Cases

In the prior legal translation blog entry we introduced the issue that foreign manufacturers face in a US products liability claim. In this legal language translation blog post, we’ll look at how the US courts have viewed the issue of admissibility of foreign language evidence in these types of claims. US courts have held that foreign design and safety standards are not admissible as they are not relevant and only confuse the jury. Deviner v. Electrolux Motor, 844 F.2d 769, 770 (11th Cir. 1988).

This makes sense, as the issue is whether or not the product complies with US standards, not a foreign jurisdiction’s standards. Further, US courts have consistently denied any move to admit foreign product safety laws and standards. See In re Baycol Products Litigation, 532 F. Supp. 2d 1029, 1054 (D. Minn. 2007). Again, courts generally reason that such evidence would only confuse the jury.

That being said, American courts have allowed the admission of foreign alternative products designed with additional safety devices or designs. In other words, if a manufacturer sells different designs abroad, these can be admitted as evidence to demonstrate the feasibility of an alternative design, knowledge of a defect, failure to warn of a defect or to set a standard of care. See Cantrell v. Hennessy Ind., Inc., 829 S.W.2d 875, 877 (Tex. App. 1992), 508 US 912 (1993). Needless to say, such evidence of foreign information will require a foreign language translation.

Up Next: Legal Translation and Foreign Evidence in US Product Liability Cases: Introduction