In the case of Heather Oberdorf v. Amazon.com, Inc., the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, PA held that Amazon can be held liable for third party product liability claims when it functions as a “marketplace for third-party products.”
The Underlying Case
Ms. Oberdorf filed a lawsuit against Amazon after the ring on a dog collar malfunctioned and caused a retractable leash to strike her in the eye resulting in an injury and permanent blindness. The product was sold through Amazon but the order was actually fulfilled by a third-party merchant. Amazon chose to fight the lawsuit arguing that it had no liability due to the fact that Ms. Oberdorf and the third-party merchant was the retailer.
This case is precedential in that it subjects Amazon to legal liability as a “seller” and putting their mere “marketplace” for transactions to occur into the stream of commerce for product liability claims. While this case occurred in Pennsylvania and is governed by Pennsylvania law, Florida has similar product liability laws that permit “strict liability” for retailers in the “stream of commerce.”
The Oberdorf case is, therefore, at least persuasive authority (even if not binding) for a Florida court.
What Does Oberdorf Mean For Florida Product Liability Cases Against Amazon?
Again, the Oberdorf case was decided under Pennsylvania law. Prior to this decision, there were other cases where Amazon successfully defended against these type of product liability claims. However, this case opens the door for anyone injured by a dangerous product anywhere in the country to not only bring a product liability claim against the manufacturer or retailer but also against Amazon when the product was purchased through Amazon’s marketplace (it is important to note that Amazon is already legally responsibility in product liability for anything sold by Amazon directly).
Additionally, the 3rd Circuit limited the scope of “marketplace” liability to Amazon because of their extensive involvement in the buying process that is not found elsewhere such as eBay.
Knowing Is Half The Battle
When you have been injured by a dangerous product, you can contact the company yourself and try to figure something out. Oftentimes, the responsible company will make promises to induce you to give them as much information as they can get out of you in order to evaluate their own risk.
Please be aware that when they do this that they are not helping you. They are merely documenting their file should you hire an attorney later and file a lawsuit.
They will also oftentimes ask you to send the product back to them so that they can try to figure out what might have gone wrong with the product.
Doing either of these things can be fatal to your case.
What You Should Do
Here’s what you should do after you have been injured by a dangerous product:
- First, you should keep the product. Once you give up possession of the failed product, you might never see it again and you will likely need it to prove your case. Failure to preserve the product often means dismissal for a product liability case.
- Second, you should take photographs of the product and, specifically, the parts that failed or caused the injury. The photographs are a good backup in case your product must be subjected to destructive testing at a later date. They also preserve a very important evidentiary advantage for you in that you are documenting the condition of the product contemporaneously with your injury. When you have this evidence, they cannot later say that the product condition was changed after the injury but before they had an opportunity to inspect it.
- Third, you should put everyone in the stream of commerce on notice of your claim. This means the manufacturer, the retailer, and in cases such as Oberdorf, a marketplace such as Amazon.
Get Help From A Florida Product Liability Attorney On Your Case
In many cases, a product liability claim involves a person taking on a multi-billion dollar company (an in some cases, several multi-billion dollar companies). We recommend hiring a Florida product liability attorney to help determine whether you have a case or not as well as to bring meritorious claims that you may have against each responsible entity.
This is no easy task in addition to all of the things that you must do for your daily life. This is where we come in to help. If you have a product liability case under Florida law, we will accept your case on a contingency fee basis. This means there are no attorney fees and there are no costs unless money is recovered for you.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation with a Lakeland, Florida product liability attorney.