In the ongoing liability battle that varies from state-to-state as to whether Amazon owes any duty to protect its customers, a federal judge in Illinois ruled that the retail giant won’t be held responsible for injuries caused by defective products sold on the website. This doesn’t look like it’s going to be a well settled rule anytime soon, given that each state is relying on its own definition of “seller” to determine liability for defective products being sold on Amazon’s platform.
Under Georgia law, the definition of a seller leaves some hope that Amazon might be held accountable if one of our citizens becomes injured from negligence related to one of their products. A product seller is defined as:
a person who, in the course of a business conducted for the purpose leases or sells and distributes; installs; prepares; blends; packages; labels; markets; or assembles pursuant to a manufacturer’s plan, intention, design, specifications, or formulation; or repairs; maintains; or otherwise is involved in placing a product in the stream of commerce. This definition does not include a manufacturer which, because of certain activities, may additionally be included within all or a portion of the definition of a product seller.
While this language leaves the door open to a negligence suit for selling, distributing, and marketing dangerous products, the rest of the statute makes clear that no claim based on strict liability can be pursued against a seller. In other words, Amazon didn’t design and create the actual product, so their potential fault is limited.
Amazon is good at finding loopholes in the law
Amazon has been sued in several states for products that caused serious injury to its customers. You can guarantee the company won’t go down without a fight no matter what the law says, and sometimes they win.
Some states that won’t hold Amazon accountable for dangerous products making their way into the stream of commerce now include Illinois. A federal judge let the company off the hook from a lawsuit brought by homeowners through their insurance company after their house suffered severe damage from a fire caused by a hoverboard purchased through Amazon. While Illinois law seems similar to the law in Georgia, Amazon was able to escape liability. Despite providing the platform for the hoverboard company to advertise on and sell directly to customers, Amazon never had the catastrophe-causing toy in its possession. It was stored by and shipped directly from the manufacturer, Shenzhen Double King Technology Co. Ltd.
In part, the judge’s ruling relied on Amazon’s defense under the Communications Decency Act, which basically gives the retailer a way to shirk responsibility for harm done when a third party makes a false statement on its website because that content didn’t come from Amazon.
Amazon clearly doesn’t think the odds are against them and they’re proving it by ignoring their own listing policies. Products Amazon prohibits the sale of yet can still be found on their website include:
- Fireworks that can cause burns or fires
- Fire extinguishers containing the common ingredient Carbon Tetrachloride
- Road flares that can cause burn injuries
- Floating lanterns that can crash down and start a fire
- Inflatable neck floats that can cause injury to a child
- Thermometers and other products containing mercury
The fight against Amazon will continue for some time but that doesn’t mean you should give up hope of recovering damages if you’ve suffered an injury from a product Amazon put into the marketplace. If you or a loved one has been seriously hurt while using an item purchased from a retailer, our team of knowledgeable product liability attorneys may be able to secure a fair settlement to compensate you for your loss.
Schedule your free case evaluation today with one of the product liability attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP. Call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847, our Savannah office at 912-417-3774, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page to share your experience.
Jed Manton is committed to representing individuals and business that have been harmed by the actions of others. With a solid track record, Jed has helped numerous clients who have been seriously injured or who have lost a loved one obtain justice, while holding the wrongdoer accountable.
Read more about Jed D. Manton here.