Amazon Unlikely to Shed E-Cig Burn Suit Early

By Martina Barash

Amazon.com Inc. has dodged several product liability suits recently, including those stemming from overheating batteries in hoverboards and other products.

The online retailer has done it by variously arguing it acts merely as a conduit for other sellers, that a federal law to protect free speech on the internet gives it immunity from being sued over its advertising and product assertions, and that it didn’t know about prior problems.

But it hasn’t yet succeeded in defeating a Colorado man’s complaint alleging severe leg burns from electronic-cigarette batteries that exploded in his pocket.

That’s despite several problems delivering the complaint to Amazon, including multiple missed deadlines, Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado said Nov. 8.

She recommended his suit be allowed to continue.

Another Chance to Fix Problems

Here, Coloradan Marcus Forzani alleges Amazon knew of at least two e-cigarette sparking and fire incidents before Feb. 25, 2016, when the MZJO lithium-ion batteries he was carrying exploded.

He named several Amazon companies and an electrical-supplies retailer, Peppy Products, as defendants.

Amazon argued the claims against it should be thrown out because Forzani missed the state court’s extended deadline for service of process.

But the magistrate judge said that, when a defendant shifts a suit to federal court, the plaintiff gets an additional 90 days for service.

Forzani’s attorneys didn’t meet that deadline, either. But, nevertheless, the judge recommended the court allow another extension to avoid punishing Forzani “for what appear to be mistakes of his counsel.”

The suit will be time-barred if he has to re-file from scratch.

Bowman & Chamberlain LLC and the Gold Law Firm LLC represents Forzani.

Waltz/Reeves represents Amazon.

The case is Forzani v. Peppy Prods., D. Colo., 18-cv-01715-RM-KLM, 11/8/18.