Over the past decade, Amazon.com (Amazon) has become a household name that many Maryland families rely on to purchase a wide variety of items. The question often comes up whether online retailers like Amazon can be held liable for dangerous products that it sells, and if so, under what theory of liability. A recent federal appellate decision provides some clarity on the issue.
According to the court’s version of the facts, the plaintiffs ordered a hoverboard from Amazon’s website. The hoverboard was not sold or marketed by Amazon. However, at some point, Amazon received reports that the battery packs in many hoverboards – including those sold on its website – were faulty and could suddenly ignite, potentially causing fires.
Amazon decided to issue a warning to its customers who had purchased hoverboards. The notice stated: “There have been news reports of safety issues involving products like the one you purchased that contain rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. As a precaution, we want to share with you some additional information about lithium-ion batteries and safety tips for using products that contain them.”
After the plaintiffs’ son was finished playing with the hoverboard one day, he left it on the front porch. The board ignited and caught the plaintiffs’ home on fire. Everyone inside was able to eventually make it out safely; however, the plaintiffs’ house was completely burned down.
The plaintiffs filed a product liability lawsuit against Amazon, making three claims. Among them was a claim based on the warning Amazon provided; the plaintiffs claimed that the warning was insufficient in that it failed to include necessary information, including the research conducted by Amazon leading it to believe the boards presented a danger.
The court concluded that the plaintiffs’’ evidence was insufficient to establish that Amazon was the “seller” of the hoverboard. However, the court also determined that by voluntarily issuing a warning to all customers who had purchased hoverboards, the company voluntarily assumed a duty to adequately warn the plaintiffs of the dangers. The court agreed with the plaintiffs that the warning provided by Amazon may have been insufficient to fully apprise them of the risks posed by the hoverboard, allowing that particular claim to proceed towards trial. The plaintiffs’’ remaining claims were dismissed based on Amazon not being the seller of the hoverboard.
Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product?
If you or someone you love has recently been injured after using a product that was dangerous or defective, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland product liability lawsuit. At the Maryland law firm, Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we represent injury victims and their family members in all types of claims, including those involving defectively designed and manufactured products. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation based on the injuries you have sustained, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today. Because we work on a contingent-fee basis, you will not be charged for our services unless we can help you recover for your injuries.