Car parts shop owners across the world are in a legal tizzy after a US court ruled they are legally allowed to buy parts from the country.
A California jury awarded the owners of RockAuto, a Michigan-based car parts and auto parts store, $7.5 million in damages on Tuesday, finding the company engaged in a conspiracy to import illegally sourced parts and failing to provide adequate information about the supply chain.
“This is an important victory for all car parts consumers in the United States and around the world who have been fighting to make sure that car parts that are made in the US are safe to buy,” Car & Auto Parts President and CEO Steve Tisch said in a statement.
“The jury found that the defendants knew or should have known that the parts they imported were made in China.
The jury also determined that the products manufactured at RockAuto were not fit for American consumers and therefore are not safe to purchase.”
RockAuto, founded by Gary Burdick and Paul Stoneman, operates out of a parking lot in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with plans to open a second location in South Bend, Indiana.
Its website lists five employees.
RockAuto’s alleged role in the import of parts from Guangzhou, China, came to light when US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) discovered the store was carrying parts from another supplier and began an investigation.
“We are confident that this case will help protect American consumers,” CBP Commissioner Ron Vitiello said in the statement.
“Our enforcement actions have resulted in significant seizures and impoundments of counterfeit vehicles and vehicles parts from foreign countries.
Our goal is to protect American jobs and to protect the interests of American businesses,” he added.
The jury also ordered RockAuto to pay $4.5m in punitive damages.
A trial has been scheduled for next year.
The company was sued in January by two people who claim they were injured when they were fired from their jobs at RockAutos because they were accused of buying parts with stolen documents.