April 20, 2020 Top Story

Court Finds Amazon Strictly Liable as "Seller"

Application of strict products liability contrasts with other states' rulings

By Peter J. Murphy

Amazon.com is subject to strict liability as a “seller” for the purposes of products liability law, an appellate court has held. In Oberdorf v. Amazon.com Inc., a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit found that Amazon is subject to strict products liability law claims because it is a “seller” under Pennsylvania law.

Amazon is considered a "seller" for the purposes of product liability

Amazon is considered a "seller" for the purposes of product liability

iStockphoto by Getty Images

This ruling conflicts with rulings from other federal courts, all of which have found that Amazon was not a seller for products liability purposes under other states’ laws. The Third Circuit has agreed to hear the appeal en banc. ABA Section of Litigation leaders have conflicting opinions on the impact this ruling will have on Amazon and similar companies if it stands.

Amazon Sued by Person Hurt by Dog Collar

A woman bought a dog collar on Amazon.com that was being sold by a third-party vendor. Amazon processed the transaction and collected the money, and the vendor sent the product directly to the woman. The collar broke when the woman’s dog lunged while out for a walk, which caused the retractable leash to recoil back into her eye. She became permanently blind in her left eye from the accident.

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