Third Circuit Rules Amazon May be Sued as a “Seller” in Product Liability Cases

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that Amazon is a “seller” as that term is defined in the Second Restatement of Torts. As a result, Amazon will have to defend a product, sold through its website, that caused injury because the manufacturer cannot be located.

The underlying lawsuit stemmed from an eye injury the plaintiff suffered while walking her dog in 2015. According to the allegations, the plaintiff was using a leash she had recently purchased on Amazon that was manufactured by a company called The Furry Gang. During the walk, the leash snapped backward, struck the plaintiff in the face and caused permanent vision loss.

Following the incident, the plaintiff was unable to locate the manufacturer and then sued Amazon for selling the defective product. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit against Amazon, but the Third Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed and found that Amazon can be held liable as a “seller.” The Court noted that even Amazon did not know how to locate the manufacturer, which made its customers particularly vulnerable in cases like this.

The Third Circuit’s decision creates a split amongst Federal Circuits and the issue may ultimately land with the Supreme Court of the United States for final decision. The Fourth and Sixth Circuits have held that Amazon is not responsible for defective products sold through its website. These decisions have implications for Texas and strict product liability lawsuits here, because a seller can be held responsible if the manufacturer of a product is insolvent or not subject to the jurisdiction of a Texas court.

If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of a defective product sold by Amazon, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-231-9360 or toll free at 1‑800-594-4884.