Feb. 2, 2000
Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook on Passage of Manufacturers? Liability Bill
Vote Shows House is Captive to Corporations, Anti-Worker
The House of Representatives today by a vote of 222-194 passed H.R. 2005, a bill that shifts the costs of injuries to workers due to defective machinery from the machine?s manufacturer to the worker injured by it. The bill would bar workers from going to court to seek fair compensation for injuries they sustain from defective machinery if that machinery is more than 18 years old and the worker is eligible for workers? compensation.
Regrettably, the House of Representatives demonstrated today that a majority of its members are more beholden to corporate special interests than to workers, who deserve a safe work environment. This bill effectively relieves manufacturers who place unsafe durable goods on the market from any responsibility for defects, while placing the high costs of workplace injuries solely on workers and their families.
Today?s House vote will make our workplaces less safe. The bill is particularly dangerous because it creates the perverse incentive for manufacturers who find defects in the last few years of the 18-year-window to cover up problems, rather than fix them.
H.R. 2005 is egregiously anti-worker because it singles out workers for a loss of legal remedies. If a worker and a visitor to a workplace are both injured or killed by the same defective machine, the bill bars only the worker from going to court to receive fair compensation.
The bill would also pass the costs of injuries caused by defective products to state workers? compensation programs — a double injury to workers. Not only would workers suffer the loss of a limb or mobility, but they likely would be denied full compensation for medical costs and loss of wages, because most workers? compensation programs have huge loopholes in coverage.
We can take some consolation that the House vote was narrow enough to sustain the administration?s recommended veto of this egregiously unfair bill. We applaud the administration?s opposition and urge the Senate not to take up this unconscionably anti-worker bill.