The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Amazon is not legally liable for the 2014 death of a 18-year-old man who purchased powdered caffeine through a third-party seller on their site.
As the New York Post reports, the high court concluded that the seller who provided the product which killed Logan Stiner, 18, was solely responsible for labeling, packaging, shipping the product and Amazon had no liability for the actions of the merchant’s channel.
Stiner’s family initially sued Amazon and multiple affiliated companies, including the manufacturer and importer of the caffeine powder. The family asked the courts to consider the effects to product liability policy if Amazon is not classified as a supplier.
However, the high court said that under the Ohio Products Liability Act, Amazon is not a supplier that can be held legally responsible for detective items or products.
“The mechanism used to ensure that consumers have recourse for any harm caused is to apply strict liability along the entire supply chain. By doing so, we ensure that at least one entity along that line—most likely the one with direct contact with the consumer—will be reachable by the consumer,” the court wrote.
The state Supreme Court’s decision comes more than a year after the Ninth District Court of Appeals handed down a similar ruling.
Justice Michael Donnelly wrote that he is “reluctantly” siding with the majority, regretful that the 1988 law fails to address e-commerce companies like Amazon.
“The failure to hold Amazon liable for injuries to its customers thwarts the purpose of products liability law because it puts Amazon’s customers at risk of being injured by a seller that can easily make itself unreachable for redress,” he opined.
“The use of strict liability would incentivize Amazon to select and monitor reputable merchants with safer products just as strict liability incentivizes sellers to select safer products that are sourced from reputable wholesalers or manufacturers. “
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[Featured image: Logan Stiner/Amazon]