Amazon faces lawsuit over Chinese battery that allegedly burned down a garage

A mislabeled battery that allegedly caused a fire in a Minnesota man’s garage last year is the subject of a new lawsuit against Amazon. Farm Bureau Property & Casualty Insurance Company claims the e-commerce giant sold the battery to its client, Dane Meyer of Cottonwood, Minnesota, last April and should be responsible for the $75,000 in damages caused by the fire.

In its complaint, Farm Bureau claims the battery was eligible for Amazon’s Prime shipping and was spotlighted as an “Amazon’s Choice” product. “Through its ‘Amazon’s Choice’ program, Amazon ‘recommends highly rated, well- priced products available to ship immediately,’” the complaint states.

According to the complaint, the battery caught fire when it was used with an incompatible charger, a model listed as “compatible” in the product listing information on Amazon’s website.

The insurance company is suing for negligence, failure to warn, and liability, saying Amazon “played a direct role in the promotion, sales, fulfillment, and distribution” of the battery, which it claims was delivered to Meyer in a box with the Amazon logo on it.

The lawsuit is the latest test of how much responsibility Amazon bears for products sold by third-party sellers on its platform. In the past, Amazon has maintained that, for some products, it serves only as the conduit between buyer and seller and thus is not responsible for defects in those products.

In July 2019, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that Amazon was liable as the seller of third-party vendor’s products. The court made its ruling in the case of a Pennsylvania woman who said she was blinded in one eye after a dog collar she bought from a third party via Amazon broke and struck her in the face.

“We do not believe that Pennsylvania law shields a company from strict liability simply because it adheres to a business model that fails to prioritize consumer safety,” according to the Third Circuit’s majority opinion.