Justia Products Liability Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Internet Law
Maynard, et al. v. Snapchat, Inc.
While driving over 100 miles per hour, Christal McGee rear-ended a car driven by Wentworth Maynard, causing him to suffer severe injuries. When the collision occurred, McGee was using a “Speed Filter” feature within Snapchat, a mobile phone application, to record her real-life speed on a photo or video that she could then share with other Snapchat users. Wentworth and his wife, Karen Maynard, sued McGee and Snapchat, Inc. (“Snap”), alleging that Snap negligently designed Snapchat’s Speed Filter. The trial court dismissed the design-defect claim against Snap, and a divided panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Snap did not owe a legal duty to the Maynards because a manufacturer’s duty to design reasonably safe products does not extend to people injured by a third party’s intentional and tortious misuse of the manufacturer’s product. On certiorari, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred: "a manufacturer has a duty under our decisional law to use reasonable care in selecting from alternative designs to reduce reasonably foreseeable risks of harm posed by its products. When a particular risk of harm from a product is not reasonably foreseeable, a manufacturer owes no design duty to reduce that risk. How a product was being used (e.g., intentionally, negligently, properly, improperly, or not at all) and who was using it (the plaintiff or a third party) when an injury occurred are relevant considerations in determining whether a manufacturer could reasonably foresee a particular risk of harm from its product. Nevertheless, our decisional law does not recognize a blanket exception to a manufacturer’s design duty in all cases of intentional or tortious third-party use." Because the holding of the Court of Appeals conflicted with these principles, and because the Maynards adequately alleged Snap could have reasonably foreseen the particular risk of harm from the Speed Filter at issue here, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded for further proceedings. View "Maynard, et al. v. Snapchat, Inc." on Justia Law
Lee v. Amazon.com, Inc.
California’s 1986 Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, Health & Saf. Code 25249.5, Proposition 65, provides that no business shall "knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving clear and reasonable warning.” Mercury compounds are listed as Proposition 65 reproductive toxins. Cosmetics containing 0.0001 percent or more of mercury are prohibited under federal law, 21 U.S.C. 331(a)–(c). Lee alleged skin-lightening creams offered for sale on Amazon’s Web site sold by third parties, contain mercury.The trial court concluded that Amazon is immune from liability under the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA), 47 U.S.C. 230, and that Lee failed to establish elements required by Proposition 65. The court of appeal reversed. The stated reasons for concluding that a laboratory test finding a high level of mercury in one unit of a skin-lightening cream is an insufficient basis for inferring other units of the same product contain mercury do not withstand scrutiny. The trial court erred in ruling that Lee was required to prove Amazon had actual knowledge the products contained mercury and in excluding evidence of constructive knowledge. The negligent failure to warn claim did not seek to hold a website owner liable as the “publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider,” so CDA did not bar the claim. View "Lee v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law
Loomis v. Amazon.com LLC
Plaintiff filed suit against Amazon for injuries she suffered from an allegedly defective hoverboard she purchased from a third party seller named TurnUpUp on Amazon's website. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Amazon.The Fourth District recently addressed this issue as a matter of first impression in Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 431 (Bolger), review denied November 18, 2020, holding that Amazon is an integral part of the overall producing and marketing enterprise that should bear the cost of injuries resulting from defective products.The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment and concluded that Bolger properly applied a well-established strict liability law to the facts of its case and was correctly decided. Based on the court's review of Amazon's third-party business model under the Business Solutions Agreement (BSA), the court is persuaded that Amazon's own business practices make it a direct link in the vertical chain of distribution under California's strict liability doctrine. Although the court concluded that Amazon is a link in the vertical chain of distribution, the court nevertheless recognizes that e-commerce may not neatly fit into a traditional sales structure. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the court concluded that there exists a triable issue of material fact as to liability under the stream of commerce approach and thus the trial court erroneously granted summary adjudication on the strict liability claim. The court rejected Amazon's contention that it was merely a service provider and thus not strictly liable for plaintiff's injuries. Furthermore, the court was not persuaded by Amazon's reliance on those decisions that restrict strict liability to sellers or manufacturers by applying out-of-state law. The court also concluded that policy considerations underlying the doctrine are furthered by imposing strict products liability in this case. Finally, summary adjudication was improperly granted as to the negligent products liability claim where Amazon provides no legal support for its argument that negligent products liability may only be imposed on manufacturers and sellers. View "Loomis v. Amazon.com LLC" on Justia Law
Oberdorf v. Amazon.com Inc
Oberdorf walked her dog with a retractable leash. Unexpectedly, the dog lunged. The D-ring on the collar broke and the leash recoiled and hit Oberdorf’s face and eyeglasses, leaving Oberdorf permanently blind in her left eye. Oberdorf bought the collar on Amazon.com. She sued Amazon.com, including claims for strict products liability and negligence. The district court found that, under Pennsylvania law, Amazon was not liable for Oberdorf’s injuries. A third-party vendor, not Amazon itself, had listed the collar on Amazon’s online marketplace and shipped the collar directly to Oberdorf. The court found that Amazon was not a “seller” under Pennsylvania law and that Oberdorf’s claims were barred by the Communications Decency Act (CDA) because she sought to hold Amazon liable for its role as the online publisher of third-party content. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded. Amazon is a “seller” under section 402A of the Second Restatement of Torts and thus subject to the Pennsylvania strict products liability law. Amazon’s involvement in transactions extends beyond a mere editorial function; it plays a large role in the actual sales process. Oberdorf’s claims against Amazon are not barred by section 230 of the CDA except as they rely upon a “failure to warn” theory of liability. The court affirmed the dismissal under the CDA of the failure to warn claims. View "Oberdorf v. Amazon.com Inc" on Justia Law
Company Doe v. Public Citizen
Company Doe filed suit to enjoin the Commission from publishing in its online, publicly accessible database a "report of harm" that attributed the death of an infant to a product manufactured and sold by Company Doe. Consumer Groups filed a post-judgment motion to intervene for the purpose of appealing the district court's sealing order as well as its decision to allow Company Doe to proceed under a pseudonym. The court held that Consumer Groups' notice of appeal deprived the district court of jurisdiction to entertain Consumer Groups' motion to intervene, and, therefore, the court vacated the district court's order denying intervention; Consumer Groups were able to seek appellate review of the district court's orders because they met the requirements for nonparty appellate standing and have independent Article III standing to challenge the orders; and, on the merits, the district court's sealing order violated the public's right of access under the First Amendment and the district court abused its discretion in allowing Company Doe to litigate pseudonymously. Accordingly, the court vacated in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions. View "Company Doe v. Public Citizen" on Justia Law