Amazon Feels the Heat From Hoverboard Fire Claims

Firefighters with fire in background

Attorney William L. Doerler discusses State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Amazon.com, Inc.

January 20, 2020
William L. Doerler - The Subrogation Strategist

In State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 3:18CV166-M-P, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 189053 (Oct. 31, 2019), the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi considered a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed by defendant Amazon.com, Inc. (Amazon). Amazon argued that, because it was a “service provider” who cannot be held liable under Mississippi’s Product Liability Act (MPLA), Miss. Code § 11.1.63, the negligence and negligent failure to warn claims filed against it by plaintiff State Farm Fire & Casualty Company (State Farm) failed as a matter of law. The court, looking beyond the MPLA, held that State Farm’s complaint stated a claim against Amazon.

In State Farm, Taylor and Laurel Boone (the Boones), State Farm’s subrogors, purchased two hoverboards from third parties in transactions facilitated by Amazon. They purchased the first hoverboard on October 31, 2015 and the second on November 10, 2015. The Boones started using the hoverboards on or about December 25, 2015. On March 16, 2016, the hoverboards caught fire and the fire spread to destroy the Boones’ home. As alleged in the amended complaint, the hoverboards were “manufactured by unknown manufacturers from China.” State Farm, as the Boones’ subrogee, filed suit asserting negligence and negligent failure to warn claims against Amazon.

Amazon filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, arguing that State Farm’s claims against it were governed by the MPLA and, as a service provider, it was not liable under the MPLA. In response, State Farm argued that Amazon was liable because it acted as a “marketplace” and that, rather than MPLA claims, Amazon is subject to common law negligence and failure to warn claims. The District Court agreed with State Farm.

Mr. Doerler may be contacted at doerlerw@whiteandwilliams.com



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