Amazon.com Inc. is not liable under Minnesota law for the more than $3 million in fire damage allegedly caused by a cellphone battery it sold on behalf of a Chinese company, a federal district court said, ruling against a WR Berkley Corp . .
Berkley unit Berkley Regional Insurance Co. provided property and casualty insurance to Minneapolis-based Schoeneckers Inc., a financial services firm doing business as BI Worldwide, according to Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota, i Berkley Regional Insurance Co. v. John Doe Battery Manufacturers; Shenzhenshi Yishengda Dianzi Youxia Gogsi; Amazon.com Inc.; and Shenzhen Maxpower Technology Co., Ltd.
In November 2018, a BI Worldwide employee purchased a replacement cell phone battery on Amazon’s online marketplace from Shenzhenshi Yishengda. The mobile phone caught fire and damaged BI Worldwide’s office. Berkley paid the company more than $3 million under its coverage for the damage.
The insurer then filed a product liability lawsuit against defendants including Amazon.
“In sum, under Minnesota law, strict product liability applies only to manufacturers and sellers of defective products,” the ruling said. “Amazon undisputedly did not manufacture the allegedly defective battery in this case.
“The uncontroverted evidence does not show that Amazon either sold the battery through a transfer of title or otherwise distributed the battery based on how those terms have been defined and described” in the law and the Minnesota court ruling.
“Rather, the evidence reflects that Amazon acted as a distribution facilitator,” which under Minnesota law is expressly exempt from strict liability, the court said, granting Amazon’s motion for summary judgment and refusing to certify the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.