Recap: The last few years have seen several explosive products, but the most famous (barring the Note 7) has probably been hoverboards. So many of the two-wheeled electric scooters were going up in flames in 2015 that they were banned by major airlines. Amazon, a big seller of the boards, also banned many of the devices in December of that year, but it was too late to stop one sparking a fire that burned down a family’s $1 million home. Now, a judge has ruled that the retail site isn’t responsible for the incident.
Brian and Megan Fox bought the $274.79 FITURBO F1 hoverboard in November 2015 as a Christmas present for their 14-year-old son. On January 9, 2016, the hoverboard exploded while the boy and their daughter were home. The pair were forced to escape through windows with the help of their father. All three suffered injuries, including lacerations that required stitches, fractured bones, and nerve damage. The family's 4000-square-foot home was destroyed.
It was never clear who manufactured the hoverboard, but the Fox’s launched a $30 million lawsuit against Amazon. They claimed the company never warned them that it could explode, even though Amazon knew about the fire risks. But a Tennessee judge disagreed.
As noted by CNBC, one Amazon exec deposed in the case admitted to removing a hoverboard from his own home after hearing about their “potential issues.” Amazon also held onto hoverboard sellers’ cash for 90 days instead of 30 as it was getting ready for a deluge of returns, "There's a potential to run off with this money," an employee wrote, in an internal email.
The couple received an email on December 12, 2015, sent out by Amazon to hoverboard buyers that referenced the "recent news reports of safety issues" and offered “safety tips.” While there was an option to return them for a refund, there was no mention of the words “fire” or “explosion.”
Judge William Campbell dismissed the case on Wednesday, ruling that Amazon was simply a platform used to sell the product, and not legally responsible for the fire. "Amazon's role in the transaction was to provide a mechanism to facilitate the interchange between the entity seeking to sell the product and the individual who sought to buy it," he wrote
"We're disappointed in the decision and weighing our options with our clients and should make a decision in the next week or two," Steven Anderson, the Fox’s lawyer, told CNBC.
An Amazon spokesperson gave the following statement.
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.