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How Responsible Can An E-Commerce Company Be In Product Liability Litigation?


How does product liability litigation work in the modern workplace, where sellers like Amazon are not the same company as the designer, manufacturer, and often even the original seller? A product liability case recently brought in Southeast Texas against the company could address this very question.

The lawsuit alleges that there were injuries due to a TV remote sold on the Amazon marketplace by the company Hu Xi Jie. The injury allegedly occurred to the purchasers’ daughter, after the remote battery was ingested and caused esophageal damage. The lawsuit claims that the remote was designed with a dangerous flaw, whereby the battery compartment easily opened to allow the small lithium battery to fall out. Amazon has responded that it cannot be held liable for the injury because it did not design, manufacture, or even technically “sell” the product.

Reasonable Defenses for E-Commerce Companies like Amazon

Amazon is what is known as an “e-commerce” website, whereby millions of third-party sellers sell products. It earns revenue from the sales of these third-party sellers. In cases like these, large e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon have a basic defense that they did not sell (in addition to design or manufacture) the product in question and thus–in lacking knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief about the truth of lawsuit allegations–it denies them. According to Amazon, all it did was participate in the “fulfillment” of the order. In this case, that third party seller was allegedly Hu Xi Jie (under U.S. name “Shopping 7693”), which is now a co-defendant in the litigation.

Business Solutions Agreements with Third-Party Sellers

In order to address potential issues like these, Amazon entails its rights and obligations with respect to the content of product listing in its Business Solutions Agreement between Amazon and its third-party sellers. This agreement provides that Amazon does not create, develop, or control the content of the product listing. Through its agreement with these third-party sellers, Amazon then asserts that if issues arise with respect to sold products, it cannot be held liable for strict products liability (design defects, marketing defects), breach of implied warranties, negligence or gross negligence, and/or associated claims.

Statutory Indemnity under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code

Amazon has also declared that it is entitled to statutory indemnity from the defendant third-party company under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 82.002. This law states that a manufacturer shall indemnify and hold harmless a seller against loss arising out of a products liability action, except for any loss caused by that seller’s intentional misconduct, negligence, or other act or omission for which the seller is independently liable.

Texas Product Liability Defense Attorneys

If a company is potentially facing product liability litigation here in South Texas, qualified defense representation is essential.

The Brownsville attorneys at Colvin, Saenz, Rodriguez & Kennamer, L.L.P. have been providing skilled representation to companies facing these claims for decades. Contact us today to find out more.




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