• Patricia Brandt, Attorney

Amazon at fault for teen's overdose death?

Is Amazon.com liable under Ohio’s consumer-protection laws for the death of a Northeast Ohio teenager who overdosed on caffeine powder promoted by and purchased on the e-retail giant’s website?

Lawyers on both sides of the question presented their arguments via video conference to the Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday, April 29, 2020.

A Lorain County high school senior died in 2014 after ingesting pure caffeine powder given by a friend who purchased it on Amazon after the giant web retailer recommended it as a product "you may like". The friend was searching for a "pre-workout supplement". The caffeine powder was offered by a third-party wholesaler.

The attorney representing the teen's family argued that Amazon should be considered a “supplier” under state law and therefore should pay compensatory damages for not making sure the products they offer on their site are safe.

“If they're subject to strict product liability, it would be an incentive for them to make sure all the products are safe, not just ones they think they would be liable for,” their attorney told the court Wednesday.

His argument was not supported by two lower courts who sided with Amazon, agreeing that the third-party wholesaler was the supplier, not Amazon.

The Ohio Supreme Court’s seven justices, meeting via video conference because of the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, didn’t offer strong indications which way they might be leaning in the case.

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