Monday, January 29, 2018

Amazon.com Found Not to Be A "Seller" for Purposes of Pennsylvania Strict Liability Claim


In the case of Oberdorf v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 4: 16-CV-01127 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 21, 2017 Brann, J.) Judge Matthew W. Brann of the Middle District Federal Court of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendant after finding that an online marketer, such as Amazon.com, is not liable for defects in products purchased through its website from third party vendors.  

The case arose out of an incident during which the Plaintiff was injured when a retractable leash she was using while walking her dog allegedly malfunction, snapped back, and caused permanent injury to the Plaintiff's eye.

The court generally noted that the online marketer is not a seller of third-party products as required by §402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts.  

Rather, the court found that the Amazon.com website was a merely a means of marketing products by a third party seller who chose what products to market and how.   The court noted that, due to the enormous number of third party sellers and their products, the Defendant, Amazon.com, was not in a position to pass upon the quality of the innumerable products available on its website.  

Rather, the Amazon Marketplace was deemed by the court as a sort of newspaper classified ad section that puts potential consumers in touch with sellers.

As such, given that the court found that Amazon.com is not a seller in the context of Section 402A, the Plaintiff's strict liability claims asserted against this online marketer were dismissed.

Judge Brann's Opinion in Oberdorf can be viewed at this LINK.  The Court's accompanying Order can be viewed HERE.


I send thanks to Attorney James M. Beck of the Philadelphia law office of Reed Smith for bringing this case to my attention.   

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