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Amazon is not liable for an exploding hoverboard that burned down a house

A judge in Tennessee has ruled that Amazon is not liable for the damage and injuries caused when a hoverboard exploded and burned down a family’s home, CNBC reports. The plaintiff, Megan Fox, argued that Amazon did not properly warn her family about the dangers of the product, but the judge did not agree with her.

In 2015, the Nashville mother bought her 13-year-old son a hoverboard for Christmas. The devices were very popular at the time, with Amazon selling a quarter of a million in a month’s time. Back then, there were no standards or safety regulations governing hoverboards. On January 9th, the hoverboard caught fire and exploded. Fox’s home was lost in the fire and her husband suffered two broken bones.

In her lawsuit, Fox argued that because the hoverboard was purchased from Amazon, the online retail giant was partially responsible for the product’s safety issues. Judge William Campbell dismissed the case before it went to trial, saying that Amazon was merely acting as a middleman.

The plaintiff’s lawyer, Stephen Anderson, said that they are currently considering appealing the judge’s ruling.

Internal documents reveal that Amazon was aware that that the hoverboards could have had problems. Amazon did reach out to customers offering them a refund before eventually removing the potential rolling bombs from the storefront altogether. Amazon points out that it was the first retailer to do so.

“As a customer obsessed [sic] company, we closely monitored potential risks with hoverboards since they were first offered for sale, regardless of whether sold directly by Amazon or by sellers on our stores. As the Consumer Product Safety Commission noted at the time, when we learned of safety concerns about this toy, we were the first retailer to proactively stop sales, issue an alert, and refund customers. We continue to invest in our teams and technologies so we can improve our early detection systems and protect customers.” an Amazon spokesperson told Digital Trends.

Campbell’s decision is not the first time that the courts have agreed with Amazon’s middleman argument. In 2015, Heather Oberdorf was partially blinded after a retractable dog leash hit her in the face. The leash was purchased on the Amazon marketplace, but Oberdorf could not locate any representatives of the leash’s manufacturer.

The judge overseeing the case said that Amazon was not liable to Oberdorf because the Amazon Marketplace acts as a “sort of newspaper classified ad section, connecting potential consumers with eager sellers in an efficient, modern, streamlined manner.”

Oberdorf’s attorney David Wilks disagrees and told CNBC that he believes Amazon should be held to the same standards as brick and mortar retailers. For now, however, Amazon does not have to play by those rules.

“Amazon is prolific and dominant and only getting bigger and throwing brick-and-mortar stores out of business left and right,” Wilks said. “But they don’t have to play by the same rules.”

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