Texas is set to get answers to the question of whether Amazon is a seller in the state. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Texas Supreme Court have both grappled with interpreting Texas product liability laws as they apply to online retailers like Amazon.
Amazon is the world’s largest retailer and digital marketplace. They have seen sales skyrocket during the global pandemic, which also sent their profitability through the roof. One of those revenue streams is being questioned in Texas this month. The question before Texas courts is whether Amazon is actively involved in selling third party goods or merely providing a sales avenue to smaller retailers. If Amazon is classified as a “seller” under Texas law, then product liability laws could find them liable for defective and injurious products sold on their website.
This is not an open and shut case. Many other states have been forced to examine their legal relationship with the world’s largest retailer and make similar determinations. California, Pennsylvania, and most recently, Arizona, have all clarified their relationships with Amazon and made determinations regarding the company’s role in their respective states.
Product Liability in Texas
Unsafe and defective consumer products put Texan lives in danger each year. These products are the very ones you use daily, from toys to household appliances to the vehicle you drive. There is an expectation of safety when purchasing consumer goods in the United States, and product liability laws exist to ensure the bonds of this good-faith relationship. Product liability laws in Texas dictate that manufacturers may be liable for consumer goods deemed unsafe and faulty. If they are found responsible, they assume responsibility for injuries or damages caused by their defective product.
Sellers, transporters, and wholesalers of the defective and dangerous product may also bear responsibility depending on the defect type. Product liability claims of negligence must prove that negligence exists and the negligence directly caused the resulting injuries.
Plaintiffs in product liability cases must make several points to prove their claim:
1. There was a duty of care to the plaintiff.
2. The duty of care was breached.
3. The breached duty of care was both the actual and legal cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
4. The breach of duty led to material and compensable injury and loss.
The McMillan family brought the case that started the chain of events in Texas after their 19-month-old daughter was injured from battery fluid ingested from a remote control purchased from a third-party seller on Amazon. The third-party seller has not responded to the case. Amazon claims it is not responsible because it acted as a facilitator and not a seller of the defective product. The court’s ruling will be essential for Texans to clarify whether they have the right to sue the retailer for injuries caused by products purchased on their website from a third-party.
Call The Law Office of Rene A. Flores PLLC at (956) 606-3606 to develop your product liability case strategy.