CNBC reported that a Tennessee judge found that Amazon has broad protection against product liability lawsuits. In the case before the judge, the plaintiff filed a claim against Amazon after a hoverboard the plaintiff purchased exploded and burned down the family home. The plaintiff purchased the product through Amazon’s website.
In the Tennessee lawsuit, a Nashville mother of four bought the hoverboard for her 13-year old son as a Christmas present. Many hoverboards around the time of the purchase started to catch fire and explode. Amazon did eventually stop selling the hoverboards. In addition to losing their home, the husband of the mother suffered two broken bones.
The plaintiff claimed that Amazon should have warned it about the dangerous hoverboard. It claimed Amazon which sells its products through its logistics system is responsible for the defects in the products it sells.
The judge affirmed Amazon’s claim that Amazon’s business model protects it from liability from manufacturer defects. Amazon acts as a conduit between sellers and consumers. Many of its products are sold on behalf of outside merchants. Plaintiffs claim that Amazon shouldn’t be protected from product defect lawsuits because consumers don’t know who the real sellers and makers of the products are. If the manufacturer was clearly identified, then the plaintiff could sell the manufacturer directly. The plaintiffs have been unable to locate the Chinese manufacturer.
Judges, like the one in the hoverboard case, according to the CNBC story, are also allowing Amazon to claim that Amazon is not really a seller – that it’s more like a newspaper that sells classified ads. Plaintiff’s product liability lawyers claim that Amazon does act like a seller who makes a profit from placing products in the stream of commerce.
The basics of a product liability claim in Tennessee
Product liability claims differ from negligence claims. In negligence claims, the injury victims need to show that:
- Someone owed the victim a duty care
- That someone failed to exercise that duty care
- The failure to exercise that duty of care caused the injuries
For example, car drivers owe a duty of care to other drivers to follow the traffic laws and to drive responsibly. If a driver is speeding and fails to stop in time, a rear-end collision can result. Victims who suffer whiplash due to the collision can file a negligence claim against the responsible driver.
In product liability cases, there is no need to prove a duty of care or that the defendant acted irresponsibly. Instead, the requirements are these:
- The product was defective due to a bad design, poor workmanship, or faulty marketing or instructions
- The maker or seller of the product placed the product into the stream of commerce
- The defect caused the user of the product to suffer
The core idea behind product liability cases is the that makers and sellers of the product are in the best position to make sure the product is safe for use.
Buyers who purchase products through the Internet generally have the right to file a claim against the manufacturer because makers of products put them into the stream of commerce. The maker arranges to sell the product in return for cash or monetary value.
The question in Internet sales cases is – does the Internet seller place the product into the stream of commerce? When a car maker sells its product through a local car dealership, the dealership is able to inspect the car. The dealer profits from the sale. The dealership is selling a car it could inspect into stream of commerce.
Companies like Amazon and other Internet sellers argue they’re not in the position to examine the products they sell. For this reason, and others, they’re not placing the car into commerce. Plaintiff’s lawyers claim otherwise. The attorneys argue that Internet sellers make lots of money off their sales. The Internet seller can hold the shipment to inspect the product or warn customers of defects. Thus, the Internet sellers should be strictly liable.
At the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, our Gladiators in Suits understand the different types of personal injury cases. We file negligence claims, product liability lawsuits, and breach of warranty cases. Even though current cases may be in favor of Internet sellers, that law may change with time. To learn if you have a legal case for holding others liable for your injuries, seek help now. For information, please call us at 615-425-2500 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have locations in Nashville, Hendersonville, and Knoxville, Tennessee.