Amazon’s e-commerce business, which offers a platform for third-party vendors, defies conventional categorization for products liability purposes. Professor Marshall Shapo’s conception of ‘tort law as a cultural mirror’ sheds light on how products liability law has evolved so as to hold Amazon liable even as the seismic shift away from brick-and-mortar physical stores to the virtual marketplace has transformed the reasonable expectations of consumers. Holding Amazon liable is likewise supported by the economic perspective embodied in the ‘cheapest cost avoider’ analysis; namely, that Amazon is best situated to take actions to minimize risks and prevent accidents from defective products. This convergence of cultural and economic perspectives and the emergence of a culturally specific norm of efficiency-as-responsibility in the context of the virtual marketplace, signals tort law’s ever moving march forward into the modern era.
Sharkey, Catherine M, Holding Amazon Liable As a Seller of Defective Goods: A Convergence of Cultural and Economic Perspectives (October 16, 2020). Northwestern University Law Review, volume 115, 2020.