Tag Archives: products liability

Is an online marketplace liable for injuries caused by defective products?

The recent case of Eberhart v. Amazon.com, Inc. discussed the question of whether a man could recover from Amazon for severe injuries to his thumb he suffered when the glass of a coffee maker he purchased on Amazon shattered. The court held that Amazon was not liable.

No strict liability

In most states, when a product injures someone, that injured party can seek to hold anyone within the distribution chain “strictly liable” for the injuries. That means that the party is potentially liable regardless of whether it sold the product directly to the consumer, and regardless of whether the injury was foreseeable or was caused because of a lack of due care.

The court concluded that Amazon was not within the coffeemaker’s chain of distribution such that Amazon could be considered a “distributor” subject to strict liability. Amazon never took title to the coffee maker. Moreover, Amazon was better characterized as a provider of services. And finally, many other courts that had considered the question had concluded that Amazon was not strictly liable for defective products sold on its marketplace.

No negligence, breach of warranty or misrepresentation

Plaintiff’s other legal theories against Amazon failed as well. As for his negligence claims, the court held Amazon owed no duty to plaintiff because Amazon did not manufacture, sell, or otherwise distribute the allegedly defective coffeemaker to him. And as for claims sounding in breach of express warranty and misrepresentation, the court held that because Amazon did not make any statement about the coffeemaker (the seller generated that content), it could not be held liable.

Eberhart v. Amazon.com, Inc., 2018 WL 4080348 (S.D.N.Y., August 27, 2018)

About the Author: Evan Brown is a Chicago technology and intellectual property attorney. Call Evan at (630) 362-7237, send email to ebrown [at] internetcases.com, or follow him on Twitter @internetcases. Read Evan’s other blog, UDRP Tracker, for information about domain name disputes.