If you have been injured by, or worse yet lost a loved one to a defective product purchased on Amazon.com, the web-based company is not liable. At least so says a federal district judge in Nashville.
In Fox, et al. v. Amazon.com, et al., the plaintiffs sought compensation for injuries and other losses associated with a fire in their home. There was no dispute that a new hoverboard purchased through the Amazon.com website caused the fire. It is unclear if the fire caused burns or other types of physical injuries.
Beyond Amazon.com, the plaintiffs sought recovery from the underlying seller of the product. Amazon.com argued that it wasn’t a seller at all—it merely hosted a “marketplace.” Moreover, Amazon.com argued that it was not the designer or manufacturer of the product. Plaintiffs, however, sought to characterize Amazon.com as a “co-seller.”
The product was shipped to the Plaintiffs from China, but Amazon.com sent the purchase receipt. The product box in which the product arrived had no information upon it about the seller or the manufacturer, but the shipping box had the Amazon.com trademark upon it. Most remarkable, in light of the judge’s conclusion, was the fact that Amazon.com disallows any communication between the seller and the Amazon.com customer. Moreover, Amazon.com had a “Product Safety Team” and a “Dangerous Goods Team.” Finally, Amazon.com had no safety certifications from any of its sellers of hoverboards. So how did the judge conclude that a store wasn’t liable simply because it resides on the internet?
The Court rooted its recent decision in the definition of “seller” within the Tennessee Products Liability Act. Despite the incredibly broad definition, Amazon.com prevailed by arguing that it never held title to the product, didn’t set its price, and didn’t deliver it. This argument prevailed despite the fact that the definition of “seller” includes both a “distributor” and a “bailor.” The Court even noted that Webster’s Dictionary defines “distributor” as “one that markets a commodity.” (emphasis added)
The Court concluded that Plaintiffs failed to establish that Amazon.com was a distributor because “Amazon’s role in the transaction was to provide a mechanism to facilitate the interchange between the entity seeking to sell the product and the individual who sought to buy it.” You know—like a distributor! Notably, however, the Court cited somewhat similar opinions out of Pennsylvania and Maryland. Let’s hope the plaintiffs appeal this one.
Cosgrove Law Group, LLC is handling products liability cases, and in one of them the product was purchased on Amazon.com. Luckily, we have identified the manufacturer. Please reach out to us if you think we can help you in any way.