05 Aug Amazon Product Injuries & Work Comp Case in the Media
Welcome to the Newsletter
Rana Law Group Newsletter
In this issue:
- Amazon – Near Immune to Liability from Products Sold
- Workers’ Comp Spotlight – Shock Injury in the Media
Amazon – Near Immune to Liability from Products Sold
We occasionally get calls about potential injuries or property damage caused by products. They are tough cases but are even tougher if the product was purchased from a “marketplace” rather than a direct vendor. Amazon is an example of a marketplace where products sold caused serious injuries or death, as well as serious property damage. Cases include a tainted supplement which led to the death of a young man and hoverboards, laptops and other electronics catching fire and burning down homes. Normally, when this occurs, if a person can show the defective product was the cause for the harm, products liability laws provide an avenue for that person to recover money damages.
In court, Amazon repeatedly argues it is a “marketplace” connecting buyers and sellers and not a “retailer” which would normally be responsible for the products for sale on its site. Imagine GNC selling a supplement that killed someone. They would be sued and would most likely be forced to discontinue sale of the product and pay damages in a lawsuit. Amazon, however, avoids liability routinely through the “marketplace” loophole. The retail giant often wins immunity in these types of cases and, when unsuccessful at arguing it is entitled to immunity, vigorously defends cases where it may be liable under the law.
If Amazon is near untouchable in this scenario, what about going after the underlying seller? Unfortunately, going after the smaller seller is typically a fool’s errand since most sellers are from out of the country or, if U.S.-based, the seller can file for bankruptcy protections. Lawyers around the country are trying to hold Amazon accountable by establishing Amazon as a culpable party who is responsible for injuries and damages, just like any other retail giant. In the case of hoverboards, for instance, it is known they cause fires. Attorneys argue Amazon’s failure to provide adequate safety warnings regarding this known hazard amounts to corporate negligence. Some states are contemplating changes in the law reclassifying Amazon as a “seller”, making it subject to products liability statutes.
I hope Amazon is found liable more often for selling products that can harm individuals. Typically, lawsuits are the only mechanism to get unsafe products removed or improved because attorneys can hit companies where it hurts – their pocketbook. Forcing companies to investigate products and demand higher safety standards should be the starting point, not something that is forced upon a company after their product maims or kills someone. While a boycott of Amazon seems much more difficult in this current atmosphere, it may be worth purchasing more products from brick-and-mortar stores and/or from trusted companies who will stand behind their product if something goes wrong.
Workers’ Comp Spotlight – Shock Injury in the Media
I have the privilege of representing Brandon Ingram, a man who worked as a warehouse supervisor for Frito Lay until he was injured on the job. He gave me permission to share his story with you, along with the video made by More Perfect Union about his injury. In October of 2016, Brandon suffered a shock injury from loose electrical wires which were supposed to be fixed. What followed was a long journey of medical care, including spine surgeries which did not fully heal him or return him to pre-injury status. Prior to the injury, Brandon was an otherwise healthy 31-year old male who is a veteran and former football player. As a result of his injuries, Brandon is no longer able to handle the rigors of his job at Frito Lay. He made a workers’ compensation claim, however, the “company doctor” released him as soon as possible, knowing most people are unable to fight these types of cases and must settle out cheaply rather than fight. Thankfully, Brandon purchased optional long-term disability insurance through Frito Lay from which he currently receives some benefits, however, they are fighting him on the workers’ compensation case, going so far as to conduct surveillance on his family. Brandon’s fight is on-going and I encourage you to view the video (with several million views to date!) to see not only the devastation these injuries can cause in a person’s life but to also see the great lengths at which insurance companies are willing to fight otherwise valid claims.