TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Monday, March 25, 2019

4th Cir.: "the Flaming Headlamp Case"

Last week the Fourth Circuit heard arguments in an appeal to answer the following question:  Is Amazon responsible when a third-party seller's product malfunctions and burns down a buyer's home?  Buyer purchased a headlamp from a third-party seller through Amazon.  The headlamp, delivered by Amazon, malfunctioned and burned the buyer's house to the ground.  The buyer's homeowner's insurer paid the buyer over $300,000 in damages.  Insurer then sued Amazon in negligence, breach of warranty, and strict liability to recoup the money. 

A Maryland district judge dismissed the claim on the ground that Amazon was not the seller of the headlamp; the court also held Amazon was insulated by the Communications Decency Act, which protects providers from liability for content created by third-parties.  The insurer argued that Maryland state law, including its Uniform Commercial Code, defines seller as “a person who sells or contracts to sell goods,” which should include Amazon considering its platform was used in the transaction and the product was warehoused at an Amazon facility.  Amazon's attorney claimed that every court that had ruled on this issue sided with Amazon.  There is no timetable for a ruling on the case.  Courthouse News Service has the story.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/tortsprof/2019/03/4th-cir-the-flaming-headlamp-case.html

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