Who Can Be Held Liable for a Defective Product in Washington, D.C.?

In the event that a consumer is injured by a defective product, a number of parties may be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Under Washington, D.C. product liability law, a person or an entity that engages in selling or distributing products is liable for harm caused by a defective product sold or distributed by that person or entity. Therefore, manufacturers and sellers are strictly liable for their defective products.

In a strict liability claim under Washington, D.C. law, a plaintiff must prove that the seller engaged in the business of selling the product that caused the harm, the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous when it was sold to the consumer, the seller expected to and reached the consumer without any substantial change in the product’s condition, and the defect directly and proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

In a recent case before a state appellate court, the court considered the reach of strict liability laws in the online shopping era. Specifically, the court considered whether Amazon could be held liable for a defective product sold on its site. The plaintiff purchased a replacement laptop computer battery on Amazon. The listing identified the seller as “E-life,” and was sold by Lenoge Technology. Amazon charged the plaintiff, packaged the battery for shipment in Amazon packaging, and sent it to the plaintiff. The plaintiff claimed that several months after she bought it, the battery exploded and caused her severe burns. She filed suit against Amazon, Lenoge, and others. The plaintiff claimed in part that Amazon was strictly liable for the defective product. Amazon argued that it did not distribute, manufacture, or sell the product, and thus it could not be held liable under strict liability laws. The trial court agreed, and the plaintiff appealed.

The court of appeals held that under these circumstances, Amazon could be held strictly liable. The court reasoned that Amazon placed itself between Lenoge and the plaintiff in the chain of distribution. It found that Amazon accepted possession of the product, stored it in the warehouse, attracted the plaintiff to its website, provided the plaintiff with a product listing, received her payment, and shipped the product to her in Amazon packaging. Amazon also set the terms of its relationship with the seller, controlled the conditions of the seller’s sale, demanded substantial fees, and set other terms. Therefore, Amazon was “pivotal” in bringing the product to the plaintiff. The court reasoned that strict liability affords maximum protection to the injured plaintiff and that Amazon could be held liable under these circumstances.

Consult with a Washington, D.C. Products Liability Lawyer

If you have been injured by a defective product, consult with a Washington, D.C. products liability lawyer. The law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, represents injured victims throughout the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. area. Bolstered by decades of combined experience, the lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen know the complex issues that can arise in personal injury cases and will work hard to protect your interests and thoroughly investigate your case. They will guide you through each step of the legal process. Call them toll-free at (800) 654-1949 or contact them online to set up a free consultation.

Contact Information