Excellent post over at the just discovered (by me anyway) and truly excellent blog, Shanghai Scrap, by Adam Minter. The post is aptly entitled, Shandong to Dead Workers: Blame Yourselves, and it details a recent explosion at a Shandong aluminum plant that killed nine and injured 64.

Shandong province’s “safety watchdog” blames worker negligence and Shanghai Scrap makes the following point, with which I concur:

If worker error was responsible for the accident, that error could only have occurred if there was a fatal design or safety flaw in the plant itself.

I do not claim to be expert in aluminum plants, but it seems very unlikely that the plant itself does not bear at least some responsibility for setting up operations that allow worker negligence (which has to be expected) to kill and injure so many.

Whenever I read something like this, I cannot help but think that if China’s legal system allowed its injured to recover real damages, incidents like this would start decreasing rapidly. Now before you assail me for wanting to bring U.S. style tort litigation to China, please at least ponder why it is that worker safety has improved so greatly in the United States in the last 50 years.

I would particularly love to hear form non-lawyers on this issue. Should China liberalize its tort laws? And if it did, what impact would that have on foreign investment? On foreign companies doing business in China? Are China lawyers calling for these changes?

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Dan Harris

I am a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

I mostly represent companies doing business in emerging market countries. It has taken me many years to build my network and it takes constant communication and travel to maintain it. My work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

I was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, I am AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), I am rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (its highest rating), and I am a SuperLawyer.

I am a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and I constantly travel between the United States and Asia. I most commonly speak on China law issues and I am the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog (www.chinalawblog.com). Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed me regarding various aspects of my international law practice.

I am licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at my firm, I focus on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.