It’s Not What It Looks Like: Amazon is Not a “Supplier” of Products  Thumbnail

It’s Not What It Looks Like: Amazon is Not a “Supplier” of Products

Have you purchased anything on Amazon during the pandemic?  Given that Amazon doubled its net profits to $5.2 Billion as of Q2 2020, the answer appears to be a resounding yes. While you may have interacted with Amazon for returns and refunds, you likely will not be able to hold it accountable for injuries caused by a product you purchase on the site.
 
Yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court issued its Opinion in Stiner v. Amazon.com Inc., 2020- Ohio-4632 addressing whether Amazon.com, Inc., participated in placing a product in the stream of commerce and therefore can be held liable as a “supplier” under the Ohio Products Liability Act, R.C. 2307.71 et seq. The case involved the tragic death of a young man who died after ingesting a caffeine powder product purchased on Amazon. The plaintiff alleged that Amazon’s participation in the sale process made it subject to liability for a defective product.
 
A unanimous Court concluded that, under the facts of the particular case, Amazon is not a supplier under the Ohio Products Liability Act. The Court’s opinion turned on the language of the Act, the extent to which Amazon controls the actual placing of the product into the stream of commerce and distinctions between being a “commercial” versus a “financial” player in the transaction. Following precedent from other jurisdictions, the Court rejected the argument that Amazon’s control over product description and pricing sufficiently qualified as placing the product in the stream of commerce so as to render Amazon a supplier.
 
Justice Donnelly agreed in the result, but wrote an extensive concurring opinion analyzing how the Court and the Legislature might best promote public safety in our modern-day market place.
 
The entire Opinion can be read here. Given that the Court’s opinion appears focused on the unique facts of any particular case, it is likely we have not heard the last of this issue from a litigation perspective. We will be writing more about this in the near future so please stay tuned.

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