Recently, an appeals court issued a decision in a case against Amazon that may upend the way courts evaluate Maine product liability lawsuits involving online retailers. The incident giving rise to the claim began when a woman purchased a defective hoverboard from a third-party seller on Amazon. The product caught on fire, causing the woman to suffer severe burns. The woman filed a lawsuit against several parties, including a strict liability lawsuit against Amazon. In response, Amazon moved for summary judgment, arguing that their case was distinguishable from prior cases holding the eCommerce site liable because they did not ever possess the hoverboard.
Despite the distinction, the court reviewed the case under the principles of prior holdings, such as the Bolger decision. The court reasoned that the online retailer operated on a business model that places itself in between the seller and consumer. Amazon contended that Bolger should not apply because it was not decided correctly and does not comport with the modern economy. However, the court found that the holding can reasonably extend to modern product liability concerns.
In the alternative, the court found that Amazon may be liable under the “stream of commerce” model. This approach applies in situations when the product liability defendant is not in the direct chain of distribution. It imposes liability based on the financial benefit the defendant obtains from the transaction, their role in providing the product to the public, and their influence on manufacturing the product. The court opined that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding whether those factors apply in this case.
One Justice also concurred in the outcome, specifically noting that the finding is in accord with overarching public policy concerns. This finding will encourage e-commerce sites to prevent the “social costs” of dangerous and defective products. Although the case came from another jurisdiction, the decision will undoubtedly profoundly impact Maine product liability cases, as an overwhelming majority of products are purchased from online marketplaces.
In light of this ruling, online marketplaces may revamp their indemnity provisions. However, there may be situations where these provisions are not legally binding. An attorney can assist individuals in recovering damages against a negligent online seller or marketplace.
Have You Suffered Injuries Because of a Defective Product?
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries because of the negligence of another person or company, contact Peter Thompson & Associates. The attorneys at our office have a long history of successfully representing Maine injury victims in their claims for damages. Our firm has been voted “Best Personal Injury Lawyer” for the 10th year in a row. We handle Maine product liability cases, slip-and-falls, bike accidents, car accidents, medical malpractice and wrongful death. We understand the concern many injury victims have concerning how they will meet their financial costs while taking time off of work to recover. We have recovered significant sums of compensation on behalf of our clients so that they can focus on what matters. Contact our office at 1-800-804-2004, to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our legal team.