The Eleventh Circuit recently reversed a Georgia federal district court’s dismissal of Amazon in a products liability suit involving injuries and property damage caused by an explosion of a defective Chinese hoverboard, which was sold by Amazon. Plaintiff alleges that the batteries in the hoverboard were defective and that Amazon knew of the safety issues and failed to adequately warn consumers.
The court desribed the relevant facts as follows:
"On 22 November 2015, Plaintiff purchased a hoverboard through Amazon’s website (“Hoverboard”). The Hoverboard was manufactured in China and was powered by a lithium-ion battery. The Hoverboard’s packaging contained no warnings about potential fire risks. Nor did Amazon warn Plaintiff about potential fire risks associated with the Hoverboard. On 5 February 2016, the Hoverboard started a fire at Plaintiff’s home. As a result of the fire, Plaintiff’s home was destroyed; and Plaintiff sustained severe injuries."
The district court had dismissed the complaint finding that the Plaintiff had not alleged enough facts demonstrating that Amazon knew of the defect. The appellate court reversed, finding that the Plaintiff had pled sufficient facts showing that Amazon was on notice of the defect, and sent the case back to the trial court. The appellate court found:
"The complaint contains more than just “bare assertions” that Amazon “knew or should have known” about the risk of fire; Plaintiff provided additional “factual content” to support that allegation. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 681. Plaintiff alleged that several fires had been caused by “lithium-ion battery powered hoverboards manufactured in China,” including by the same model as Plaintiff’s Hoverboard. More important, Plaintiff alleged that when Amazon sold the Hoverboard to Plaintiff, Amazon had already been sent written notification of four specific fires that had been caused by hoverboards sold by Amazon. Plaintiff also alleged that thousands of hoverboards had been seized by United States custom authorities based on concerns about the hoverboards’ “potentially explosive lithium batteries.”
Finding that "Plaintiff has alleged enough facts to state plausibly that Amazon had actual or constructive knowledge that the Hoverboard posed a risk of fire at the time of Plaintiff’s purchase", the court vacated the dismissal and sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.
This is a rare loss for Amazon, which has been able to escape liability in similar cases by making a number of arguments, including that it is not liable for defects in the products of third party sellers who simply use the Amazon platform to sell their goods. Tactical Law Group will continue to monitor the case, which is Love Jr. v. Weecoo et al., Case Number 1:18cv540-TWT, in the Northern District of Georgia. You can read a copy of the Eleventh Circuit's opinion by clicking below.
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