by Christina Tabacco November 12, 2020
The estate and relatives of a deceased Louisiana man, Archie Pickard, have filed suit against Amazon.com, Inc. and its affiliated companies for product liability. The complaint, submitted Tuesday in the Western District of Louisiana, Shreveport Division alleges that a lithium-ion battery charger sold by a Chinese third-party vendor caught on fire in the decedent’s home which caused burns that resulted in his death in 2019. The filing accused Amazon of improperly vetting the products sold by the third-party seller.
According to the complaint Archie Pickard purchased a “18650 Rechargeable Li-ion Battery Charger 4 Slot Universal Smart Li-ion Battery Charger” using Amazon’s website on Dec. 15, 2019. The Amazon third-party seller was Jisell, a company based in Shanghai, China.
When he purchased the battery charger, Pickard allegedly relied on “Amazon’s promises to oversee safety on its website, including Amazon’s promises to remove items that do not comply with its safety policies, directly notify consumers if there is a safety issue with a product, monitor safety documentation for products, (and) continuously improve its tools to prevent unsafe products from being listed and vetting new sellers.” According to the complaint, Amazon takes numerous steps to protect customers from unsafe products sold in its marketplace.
Yet, the complaint contends, Amazon failed to safeguard Pickard from the defective battery charger he purchased. Specifically, the filing points to customer reviews for a “substantially similar” battery charger also sold by Jisell. Over several months, the complaint recites, reviews of that product which stated that the item was “dangerous,” that the product sparked when plugged in, and, in one instance, caught fire.
On Dec. 21, 2019, the battery charger allegedly caused a fire in Pickard’s home and “caused him injuries that caused his death.” He was reportedly asleep in the living room recliner when he was awakened by a noise and observed “sparks coming from the battery charger on the floor near the recliner, where he was charging lithium ion batteries.”
According to the complaint, Pickard then summoned a neighbor and together they reentered the house with a fire extinguisher, but the smoke had become too severe, so they exited. Reportedly, the neighbor called the fire department. After arrival, the firefighters determined that Pickard needed medical attention. The filing states that Pickard was transferred to a nearby hospital, “where he ultimately died as a result of the burn injuries and their complications.”
The post-fire investigation reportedly discovered “damage to the battery charger including its power cord, which appeared to be the origin of the fire.” An eye-witness, the neighbor who helped, supposedly corroborates that fact.
According to the complaint, the plaintiffs claim that “the battery charger did not comply with Amazon’s product safety policies. It was a fire hazard as detailed in the Customer reviews that Amazon purportedly reviews every few minutes. Despite this product violating Amazon’s safety policy, and Amazon’s undertaking to remove such products from third-party sellers from its website to protect its customers, Amazon did not remove the battery charger.”
The plaintiff brings products liability, negligent undertaking, and non-manufacturing seller liability claims and seeks damages for the harm suffered.