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Amazon Can be Sued for Defective Products Sold on its Site by Third-Party Sellers

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Amazon.com, Inc. (Amazon) was recently dealt another setback in its efforts to avoid liability for defective products sold on its website that were manufactured by overseas companies that may not be amenable to jurisdiction in the United States.

In McMillan v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 4:18-CV-2242, a federal judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas (Houston) held that Amazon could be liable as a "seller" under a Texas product liability statute for injuries caused by a defective product. The lawsuit stems from the sale of a general remote for Apple TV, which was purchased from a Chinese company, Hu Xi Jie, through Amazon's platform. After McMillan received the remote, one of the batteries fell out of the defective product and his daughter swallowed it, causing permanent injury to the toddler's throat.

Mr. McMillan sued both Hu Xi Jie and Amazon in strict products liability, negligence, and breach of warranty, but the Chinese company never responded to the suit. With regard to Amazon, Texas' product liability statute provides that, under certain circumstances, a non-manufacturing seller may be liable for harm caused by a product that it did not manufacture.

Amazon sought to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that it was not a "seller" of the product, as that term is defined under the Texas products liability statute. The court disagreed, ruling that Amazon was a seller because it was fundamentally involved and had control over the product's sale because, among other things, Amazon stored the remote at its warehouse, packaged it, applied a shipping label to it, and delivered it to McMillan. Amazon received a fee from the Hu Xi Jie for this service and a fee from the sale of the remote. Amazon's website was also the platform for communication between the manufacturer and Mr. McMillan. Amazon is appealing this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Sorrels, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner have been fighting for the rights of people injured by defective products for decades. If you or someone you know has been injured by a defective product, contact the experienced attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Sorrels, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner at 713-396-3964 or toll free at 1-800-594-4884.

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