Innocent Sellers Fairness Act Reintroduced in Congress

NLBMDA-Promoted Initiative Would Provide Liability Protection for Those that Only Sell Products.

Washington, DC – Legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives to protect dealers from unfair product liability lawsuits. The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) applauds Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) for his reintroduction of the NLBMDA-promoted “Innocent Sellers Fairness Act” ([glossary]H.R. 1199[/glossary]) that would provide product liability protection to those businesses that merely sell products, and did not manufacture or install them.

Unfounded and unfair lawsuits are increasingly having a negative effect on the ability of building material dealers and distributors to run their business and contribute to their communities. According to a 2010 study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, small businesses bear 81 percent of business tort liability costs.

“NLBMDA thanks Representative Farenthold for his work to restore some sanity to our legal system by recognizing that business owners that merely sell products, and are not involved in the manufacturing process, should not be held liable for defects that they did not create,” said NLBMDA Chairman JD Saunders, vice president at Economy Lumber in Campbell, California.

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Current law imposes liability without wrongdoing on sellers, and exposes them to all of the damages allegedly suffered by a plaintiff, even though others may have played the critical role in causing the damages. The “mistake” may have been in the manufacture or design of the product, or in a customer’s improper use of the product, yet the seller is often faced with some or all of the liability.

“I constantly hear stories from NLBMDA members about unfounded product liability lawsuits that have significantly impacted their businesses. These lawsuits cost lumber dealers thousands of dollars annually and often force dealers to settle to avoid expensive legal fees, even though they are innocent of any wrong-doing,” said NLBMDA President and CEO Jonathan Paine. “The Innocent Sellers Fairness Act would limit the instances when retailers-including lumber dealers-could be pulled into a product liability lawsuit and protect dealers from plaintiffs’ lawyers looking for a quick dollar. NLBMDA is leading the fight to garner support for the legislation and we applaud Rep. Farenthold for continuing to be a partner in this fight for our small businesses.”

Congressman Farenthold was joined by five representatives as original cosponsors to introduce the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act, [glossary]H.R. 1199[/glossary]. The original cosponsors are Reps. Rick Crawford (R-AR), John “Jimmy” Duncan Jr. (R-TN), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Lamar Smith (R-TX). The bill has been referred to the House’s Judiciary Committee, and the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Lumber dealers will have the opportunity to push for the Innocent Sellers Fairness Act later this month at the NLBMDA Spring Meeting & Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C, which runs March 23-25. More information about this meeting and the scheduled Capitol Hill visits with congress can be found at

News source provided by NLBMDA