Exploding Hoverboard Case Sees Amazon Not Liable, A Mere ‘Middleman’

Amazon has fended off litigation regarding faulty hoverboards for several years prior to this victory.

Exploding hoverboard
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Amazon has fended off litigation regarding faulty hoverboards for several years prior to this victory.

A Tennessee Judge ruled in favor of Amazon, finding that the retail giant was not liable for the injuries or damages caused after a hoverboard purchased from the marketplace exploded and burned down a family’s home.

Plaintiff, Megan Fox, argued the retail giant lacked proper warning information about how dangerous the hoverboard could be to her and her family, CNBC reports. According to court documents, her husband admitted in his deposition that his wife never read a warning email from Amazon that the retailer sent December 12. The judge overseeing the exploding hoverboard case said Amazon was simply a middleman in the process.

It was three years ago, in 2015, that Megan Fox purchased a hoverboard from Amazon for her 13-year-old as a Christmas present. During Christmas of 2015, the hoverboards were incredibly popular. Amazon alone sold a quarter of a million hoverboards in just a month.

On January 9, just a couple weeks after the teenager opened his Christmas present, the hoverboard exploded after catching on fire. The exploding hoverboard caused Fox to lose her home, and her husband suffered several broken bones.

Fox argued in her lawsuit that she believed Amazon was partially responsible for product safety issues given the fact that the hoverboard was purchased through Amazon. Judge William Campbell disagreed and dismissed the case before it even went to trial, noting that Amazon was merely a middleman in the purchasing process.

Stephen Anderson, Megan’s lawyer, is currently considering appealing the judge’s ruling with Megan and her husband.

“We’re disappointed in the decision and weighing our options with our clients and should make a decision in the next week or two.”

Aware of the risks and dangers, the retail giant did reach out to customers and offer refunds before removing hoverboards from their marketplace completely. According to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Elliot Kaye, Amazon was the first to notify customers and did so voluntarily and proactively.

“I want to commend Amazon for voluntarily stepping up, providing a free remedy and putting customer safety first. I encourage consumers to take advantage of Amazon’s offer and to contact the company through the following site: https://www.amazon.com/contact-us.”

It’s of note that no standard or safety regulation existed for hoverboards at the time of the incident.

The case of the exploding hoverboard in Tennessee is not the first time a judge has sided with Amazon noting the retail giant is nothing more than a middleman. Back in 2015, Heather Oberdorf became partially blind after a retractable dog leash she purchased from Amazon slammed her in the face. While the leash was purchased through Amazon, Heather was unable to connect with any representatives of the company that manufactured the leash.

The judge that oversaw Heather’s case claimed Amazon was nothing more than the classifieds in a newspaper. The retail giant connected buyers and sellers and should not be held liable for that.

David Wilks, Heather’s attorney, disagreed with the ruling and argued that Amazon should be forced to play by the same rules as any brick and mortar store.

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

Editor’s note: An Amazon spokesperson has responded, via email, to this story. See their response below.

“As a customer obsessed 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.”