March 11, 2021 Top Story

Split Emerges Over Products Liability for Online Markets

Court holds that Amazon is not liable for products sold by third parties

By Aubrey Eyrolles

In a decision that highlights an emerging split in whether online marketplaces are liable for products sold by third parties, a state supreme court has held that Amazon is not liable for products sold by a third-party vendor on its website. Meanwhile, another line of cases has come to the opposite conclusion. Given this uncertainty, ABA Litigation Section leaders suggest that online marketplaces may respond by imposing stricter controls over products sold on their platforms.

A state court held that Amazon is not liable for products sold by third-party vendors on its website

A state court held that Amazon is not liable for products sold by third-party vendors on its website

Sundry Photography | iStockphoto by Getty Images

State Supreme Court Concludes that Amazon Is Not the Seller of the Product

In Stiner v. Amazon.com, Inc., a teenager passed away after ingesting a fatal dose of a caffeine powder called “Hard Rhino,” which he obtained from a friend. The friend had bought it from a third-party vendor, Tenkoris, on Amazon’s website. The teenager’s family sued Amazon for product liability and negligence under the theory that Amazon had supplied “Hard Rhino”. The trial court found that Amazon was not liable as a supplier, and granted summary judgment in favor of Amazon. The intermediate appellate court affirmed the dismissal.

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