Monday, July 8, 2019

Amazon.com Deemed to Be a "Seller" Capable of Being Sued Under Pennsylvania Products Liability Law



In the case of Oberdorf v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 18-1041 (3d Cir. July 3, 2019 Shwartz, J., Scirica, J., Roth, J.) (Op. by Roth, J.), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court and held that Amazon.com may be sued as a "seller" in products liability cases.

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 federal appellate court in Pennsylvania ruled that Amazon.com was a "seller" as that term was defined in the Restatement (Second) of Torts and was, therefore, subject to potential strict products liability.  As such, under this decision, the online retail giant may be potentially liable under Pennsylvania products liability law for defective products sold by third party vendors through Amazon.com.

With this decision, the Third Circuit overruled the decision by a Federal Middle District Court Judge who had predicted that, if faced with the issue, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would rule that Amazon.com did not meet the definition of a "seller" under the applicable strict products liability law.

As noted by Max Mitchell in his July 3, 2019 article in the Legal Intelligencer entitled "Amazon May Be Sued in Products Liability Cases Stemming From Third Party Vendor Sales, 3rd Circ. Rules," which article brought this decision to my attention, the Oberdorf case contributes to a split of authority amongst the Federal Circuit Courts.  As such, this issue certainly may become one to be reviewed by the United States Supreme Court some day.

Anyone wishing to review the Third Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Oberdorf may click this LINK

The Tort Talk post on the District Court's previous decision can be viewed HERE.

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