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Legal News: Amazon Not Liable for 3rd Party Vendor's Product

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The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Amazon.com Inc. ("Amazon") cannot be held liable under strict products liability for the death of a teenager from caffeine powder sold by one of its vendors holding that Amazon isn’t a “supplier” under the state’s product liability law because it didn’t have control over the product

Unlike a recent California appellate decision, the vendor, Tenkoris, did not participate in a “fulfillment by Amazon” program in which Amazon stores the vendor’s product, then packages and ships it to buyers.

The teen, died in 2014 at age 18 after ingesting the Hard Rhino powder. His friend had purchased the product after searching Amazon using the term “pre-workout.” The decedent's father, the plaintiff, had cited the Ohio Products Liability Act. The law makes a supplier liable for a defective product when it “sells, distributes, leases, prepares, blends, packages, labels or otherwise participates in the placing of a product in the stream of commerce.” The Ohio Supreme Court said the phrase “otherwise participates” must be read in conjunction with the list that preceded it. The activities on the list all involve some act of control over a product or preparation of a product for use or consumption. “Based on the understanding that placing a product in the stream of commerce requires some act of control over the product, we conclude that Amazon should not be held liable as a supplier under the Ohio Products Liability Act,” the court said.

The court cited other cases in agreement, including a decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Cincinnati involving a defective hoverboard sold on the Amazon website.

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