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Amazon: Avoiding Liability or Middle Man?

I don't know about you, but I may have an addiction ... Amazon. Chances are there is at least one Amazon box on my front porch anxiously awaiting my return home. But it isn't just Amazon, right?! We now live in a world that we can order anything and everything on an app, through Facebook, Amazon, or any other number of online "retailers" -- from groceries to pharmaceuticals, from toys to clothes, from electronics to beauty products, from food to-go to ride shares. The problem is that the judicial system is slow to catch up to this trend of an online society. While strides have been made, the online market is advancing at the speed of 10 Mbps while the courts are still on dial-up.

A prime example (pun intended) are the cases currently pending against Inc. from those injured by defective products sold by Amazon. The Fox family purchase a popular Christmas item in 2015, a hoverboard. A month later, in January 2016, the hoverboard randomly erupted into flames while not in use. The unsuspecting family not only suffered physical injuries escaping from the fire, but also lost their house. 56 other fires from hoverboards were reported in the same time period, according to the Wall Street Journal, with half being purchase from Amazon.

Amazon disclaims any liability and argues it is simply the seller of such products, much like a Wal-Mart or Target. In some cases, however, it does act to protect consumers but stopping sales or removing items. It also takes steps to prohibit the sale of counterfeit products. Sellers are required to reach out to customers in the event of recalled product or known issues. Amazon has been criticized for its response to hoverboard fires, specifically.

While some laws and state protect sellers, like Amazon, from certain warranty lawsuits, the courts have not specifically or clearly decided what to do with these types of cases. In the case of the Fox family, above, the courts ruled that Amazon did not have enough control over the product to be considered a seller. The Court of Appeals, however, allowed the Foxes to move forward with their claims against Amazon for failure to warn about the risk of fire.

The fact is that many people purchase a product without much research on the underlying manufacturer (I am guilty of it too!). In those instances, if the product malfunction, the customer may not even contact Amazon or the retailer for a refund, much less the manufacturer. You and I may see that as just a cheap product, may leave a bad review, but otherwise have no reason to suspect that it may be part of a larger product issue unless retailers like Amazon step up. If you have a problem with a defective product that cause severe injuries or property damage, you can't go up against these billion dollar companies alone. Call Dean Law Firm for a free consultation and put us to work to protect you and your family.

Until then, shop smart and do your homework. And know that you are not alone -- there is no judgment from us on how many Amazon boxes you have to recycle.

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