During September of 2016, a vaping device used by a man named William Foley malfunctioned and ended up burning down his house. His home was located in La Miranda, California and the costs of repairing it were paid for by Foley’s home insurance company, State Farm. The total price of repairing Foley’s was in excess of $400,000. State Farm took the position that the incident was the result of Foley’s vaping device having an LG battery that was defective. In Los Angeles Superior Court, lawyers representing State Farm filed a complaint in an attempt to get back the money from Amazon the insurance company had to pay to repair William Foley’s house.
Moved To Federal Court
The William Foley lawsuit was moved to a Los Angeles federal district court. The defendants listed in the lawsuit are not only the manufacturers of the LG battery but also Amazon. According to the lawsuit, Amazon is also responsible for the incident, because at the time, it was the retailer responsible for selling Foley the LG battery used in the vaping device. The law firm representing Amazon replied to the lawsuit stating the company did not manufacture, design or sell the LG batteries used for vaping. The response also stated Amazon was protected from claims as an online publisher from what it provides as a third party. This is stated in the Communications Decency Act.
Should this lawsuit be successful, the consequences could be far-reaching. It could change the way products are sold online. This is not the first lawsuit of its kind. There have been three other attempts to make Amazon responsible for selling products considered or proven defective. None of them have been successful.
Federal Appellate Courts
The of cases involving Amazon being held responsible for defective products are now in the 6th, 4th and 3rd Circuits of the federal appellate courts. This is a very stressful time for Amazon. Should each of the three federal appellate courts confirm the rulings from the lower courts, Amazon will not be legally responsible for providing compensation for defective products sold using its online service. This will significantly eliminate the threat of many more lawsuits involving product liability. If only one of the courts changes the lower court rulings, insurance companies and law firms will notice.
6th Circuit Court Of Appeals Lawsuit
A U.S. District Court determined Amazon was not responsible for selling a hoverboard that caused a fire at Charles and Megan Fox’s home that burned down their house. The court determined Amazon could not be considered a seller based on Tennessee’s definition of it. The court stated Amazon did not make any text or representation of the product and didn’t have title to the hoverboard. The only involvement of Amazon was to provide a way for an entity trying to sell a product to meet with an entity trying to purchase a product so the transaction could take place.
4th Circuit Court Of Appeals Lawsuit
This lawsuit was brought by Erie Insurance and involves a fire allegedly being caused by a faulty headlamp. In this case, the court determined if the policyholder bought the headlamp from Home Depot, this company could be held liable for selling a defective product. Amazon did not make the headlamp and did not directly sell the product. Amazon only facilitated the sale.
3rd Circuit Court Of Appeals Lawsuit
Amazon was granted summary judgment in this case. It is based on a woman walking her dog and a retractable leash breaking then coming back and hitting her in the face. This woman experienced permanent eye damage. The plaintiff had purchased the dog leash on Amazon but the court held Amazon did not participate in its manufacture or its sale by vendors.
Courts have repeatedly held Amazon is an online storefront and provides a back-end service. It does not manufacture products or sell them itself. Amazon has repeatedly not been made responsible for defective products purchased using the online service they provide.