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Family Sues Amazon After Counterfeit Hoverboard Catches Fire, Destroys Home (wtsp.com) 253

Three weeks after unboxing a hoverboard, it burst into flames. But is Amazon partly to blame? tripleevenfall quotes The Tennessean: A Nashville family whose $1 million home was destroyed earlier this year in a fire caused by a hoverboard toy is suing Amazon saying the retail giant knowingly sold a dangerous product... The lawsuit says the seller of the hoverboard listed online, "W-Deals," is a sham organization that is registered to an apartment in New York City that has not responded to requests from lawyers in the case. It alleges the family was sold a counterfeit product from China instead of a brand with a Samsung lithium ion battery they believed they were buying from Amazon . It says Tennessee product liability law holds a seller responsible if the manufacturer cannot be found.
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Family Sues Amazon After Counterfeit Hoverboard Catches Fire, Destroys Home

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 30, 2016 @02:38PM (#53179617)

    I'm not sure that's really an improvement...??

  • Except (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Amazon wasn't the seller. Their opening of their platform to 3rd parties is what almost made me stop using them. If I want to buy from Joe Schmoe there is ebay. Amazon should not allow 3rd party sellers, plain and simple

    • Re:Except (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @02:55PM (#53179721)

      Since Amazon opened their platform to third parties, Amazon is almost certainly providing "material assistance" (or whatever the proper legal phrase is) to those sellers. Without Amazon, it is far less likely buyers would've had access to that seller.

    • Re:Except (Score:5, Informative)

      by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @02:58PM (#53179745)

      Amazon lists it on their storefront. Amazon handles the financial transaction. Amazon profits off of each sale. Amazon often ships the thing out to you even if it's a third party. Amazon is supposed to vet the 3rd parties they work with. Amazon is on the hook.

      • Yeah, I've been surprised by how many reports there've been about counterfeit products being sold on Amazon. I understand that they're brokering sales for 3rd parties, but you'd think there'd be processes for evaluating new sellers and removing bad actors.
      • Re:Except (Score:4, Insightful)

        by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `8691tsaebssab'> on Sunday October 30, 2016 @09:01PM (#53181279) Journal

        Not to mention they are allowing tons and tons of fakes and shoddy merchandise to be sold with pretty much ZERO vetting. I have seen in just my shopping there fake flash cards and sticks, shoddily rebuilt laptop batteries being sold as new product, fake mikes/guitars/amps, products that could easily not just rip someone off but seriously maim or kill. You look and there are dozens of complaints and...Amazon don't do shit apparently.

        So I'm sorry fanboys but I like Amazon, have bought thousands of dollars in gear from Amazon (NEVER from their third parties) and the computer I'm typing this on was 100% built from parts I got from them but since they have allowed third parties? They have become a real minefield with tons of shoddy shit that I doubt even eBay would allow. I can easily see how someone who didn't know that you can't trust the fact that you are on a site that clearly says "Amazon" does NOT mean you are actually buying from Amazon could get a seriously dangerous product thinking they were buying the real deal. Hell you can't even go by price because tons of them are trying to pass the fakes off as real and thus charge real prices for them!

        So this is 100% Amazon's fault. They opened the floodgates to the scammers, even allow the scammers to use their warehouses and distribution, and get a cut of every fake and shoddy product sold, so I don't see how they can argue they are not responsible when they are the ones that allowed the scammers to flourish and aided them in every step along the way.

    • Re:Except (Score:5, Informative)

      by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @02:58PM (#53179749)
      The grocery store wasn't the seller. Nestle was the seller of the chocolate bar I ate.

      Nope, law almost universally agrees, the person you give the money to in order to get the item is the seller. Note, you don't pay eBay for your wins (not including any 3rd party payment services owned by eBay). eBay connects you with a seller, not doesn't directly take payment and dispatch the item, as Amazon (and you supermarket) does.

      Amazon should not allow 3rd party sellers, plain and simple

      Not without some vetting, or for limited products (like self-published books).

      • Amazon should not allow 3rd party sellers, plain and simple

        Not without some vetting, or for limited products (like self-published books).

        Even if Amazon vets, what's to stop shady sellers from acting all legit then shipping something inferior to the products they showed to Amazon? Amazon would end up as the bad guy because they were their ones who gave their seal of approval. Never going to happen.

        When something is fashionable and expensive at Xmas an evil seller can make money and vanish before anybody figures out what's going on. There's no way for Amazon to stop that.

        • Re:Except (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @05:14PM (#53180313)
          You assume vetting is just examining dedicated demo product. These days, making sure they are sueable is more likely useful. Amazon 3rd party sellers lets the same person set up 1000 shell identities and sell the same fraudulent item from whichever sell isn't shut down yet. A physical address (verfiied), a business license (verified), and business insurance (verified) wouldn't be too hard for a seller to come up with, and Amazon to verify, and would eliminate 99.44% of the scammers.

          So what stops them from scamming Amazon buyers? Amazon has your home address, and the desire to sue you if you defraud its customers. They can't stop someone willing to use their home address to commit mail fraud from. But they can certainly aid in the prosecution of them, which they can't do now.
      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        Don't forget that ebay owns Paypal and some auctions only accept payment through Paypal. Seems like that scenario makes ebay identical to amazon.
  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @02:40PM (#53179635)
    They likely have home insurance and will be reimbursed. If anyone has a right to sue Amazon it will be the insurance company, to reclaim the money they paid out to the homeowners.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      They likely have home insurance and will be reimbursed. If anyone has a right to sue Amazon it will be the insurance company, to reclaim the money they paid out to the homeowners.

      It is possible their insurance did not cover the total loss as well as any damages bryond monetary.

      • It never does (Score:5, Informative)

        by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @02:51PM (#53179701)
        Insurance companies fight you tooth and nail, often for years. Especially on a big payout like a burnt down house. Every year they delay inflation bites into the payout and you get more desperate to take whatever they'll give.
        • Re:It never does (Score:4, Informative)

          by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @03:04PM (#53179777)
          My insurance covers temporary relocation, and has limits on contents. So if I wanted to relocate 1 year for the house to be torn down and re-built right, I'd have to pay for 9 months or so of accommodation. And the contents would be replaced to the insurance company's satisfaction, not mine. And I'd be paying for the deductible, and possibly have other limits on the policy.

          Plus, if I sue, I can recover the sentimental value of the items I have that were hand crafted by my great grandparents back in the day where if you wanted to sit down, you made a chair, or sat on the ground, a feeling known in the modern era by those who must build the IKEA chair if they wish to sit. Plus, everyone sues for "mental harm", hoping to get a $300M judgment.
          • Coverage vs payout are very different things. I've used car insurance twice and tried to use home once. The two car companies cost me several grand for two cases where I was rear ended and for the home owners it was made clear to me I wouldn't get close to my deductible.

            I know one guy who made out OK within insurance, but for the stupidest reason imaginable. He's a dummy and bought one of those $3000 rent-to-own laptops (e.g. a $600 laptop that they mark up to $3k because if they can't legally charge th
        • You need better insurance. My insurance covers new for old and full rebuild regardless of cost as well as costs for temporary accommodation while they are rebuilding. The incentive with skyrocketing building costs is for them to get it done As soon as humanly possible in a disaster.
    • by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @02:48PM (#53179673) Homepage
      For damages, sure, but maybe they wanted the genuine *Samsung* battery so they could burn their entire neighbourhood to the ground, but instead got a cheap knock-off and only their house got toasted and are suing for misrepresentation?

      Could be worse, at least they didn't get the oblig. bobcat... [xkcd.com]
      • Verdict: Guilty.

        Defendant ordered to reimburse plaintiff the full cost of the defective hoverboard.
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      They likely have home insurance and will be reimbursed. If anyone has a right to sue Amazon it will be the insurance company, to reclaim the money they paid out to the homeowners.

      Well, if someone torched the place I'd hopefully get the apartment value from the insurance company, but the tort for setting it on fire with me in it as well as heirlooms, memorabilia and other items of personal importance seem worth suing over. It all depends on the degree of culpability, not saying they're going to win but it's not a slam dunk dismissal.

    • by fnj ( 64210 )

      They likely have home insurance and will be reimbursed.

      But you don't know that they do. Many do not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bloodhawk ( 813939 )
      When you win a lawsuit of this nature the first people to get paid back is the insurance company. My sister recently won a lawsuit against the scumbag incompetent doctor that was treating her. So she got around 800k, first thing required was 600k went to pay back what medical insurance had paid out.
    • They likely have home insurance and will be reimbursed.

      And then next year their premiums will treble or more. Insurance is primarily there to cover you against things that are either accidental or your own damned fault. That's to say nothing of the fact that the insurance payout will be substantially less than the cost of everything that was lost. I assume you've never had your car written off.

    • by JeffTL ( 667728 )
      Without looking at all the details, it could actually be the insurance company suing on their behalf (subrogation). When you file a property insurance claim where a third party may be liable - the most common case is a car accident where you file a collision claim under your own insurance instead of a liability claim under the other guy's - the insurance company acquires your underlying right to seek reparations, either through an insurance claim or a lawsuit. If this is successful, you often get your ded
  • China (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rossz ( 67331 ) <ogre@geekbik[ ]net ['er.' in gap]> on Sunday October 30, 2016 @02:57PM (#53179739) Homepage Journal

    China has a long history of selling dangerous products. From poisonous pet food to exploding electronics. When confronted, the Chinese government's response is "what a shame, we'll do something". The "something" is to rename the company and do it all over again.

    Why the fuck does China have most favored nation trade status?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rick Zeman ( 15628 )

      China has a long history of selling dangerous products. From poisonous pet food to exploding electronics. When confronted, the Chinese government's response is "what a shame, we'll do something". The "something" is to rename the company and do it all over again.

      Why the fuck does China have most favored nation trade status?

      Because they've bought off a whole hell of a lot of people, but using cheap Chinese shit is good for the US company's short-term bottom line...which is all today's executives look at because that's what their bonuses and stock options are tied to.

    • if you don't like it you need to bring back more manufacture (not the jobs, Americans make too much, it'll mostly be robots). And if you're gonna bring back manufacturing you're either going to have the kind of pollution that gives people cancer or a large and powerful gov't apparatus that monitors and punishes factories for polluting. Neither of which is palatable to Americans.
    • Re:China (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @04:57PM (#53180241)

      China has a long history of selling dangerous products. From poisonous pet food to exploding electronics. When confronted, the Chinese government's response is "what a shame, we'll do something". The "something" is to rename the company and do it all over again.

      Why the fuck does China have most favored nation trade status?

      That is hardly an exclusive problem to china, china just happens to make the vast majority of products nowadays. You don't have to look far to find cars that catch fire or mass tire recalls on faulty products, US contaminated beef or chicken etc etc. They do seem particularly lax on punishment etc but for the scale of it, it doesn't seem any worse than what most companies do the world over where cost and profit are king.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ADRA ( 37398 )

      You don't seem to complain about all the other products you use daily which were all/mostly manufactured in part in China. Obviously there's shoddy shit sold by all sorts of people, but you typically won't buy it unless you have confidence that said shit legitimate enough to assuage your risks. IPhones are made in China. But they're sold by Apple. People like and trust Apple, so Apple has the incentive to make damn sure that their products are high enough quality to match their perception.

      The product was so

    • by Trogre ( 513942 )

      China has two major advantages:

      1. No effective labour laws. Factory workers apparently don't need breaks, reasonable pay, sick leave, annual leave, accident insurance.

      2. No effective environmental laws. Turns out that countries that are happy to turn their own back yard into toxic sludge are more likely to get manufacturing contracts than countries that aren't quite so happy about the idea.

      In short, the west has decided to change manufacturing into Somebody Else's Problem.

      Note I said "effective". There a

  • I'm not sure how this:

    The lawsuit says the seller of the hoverboard listed online, "W-Deals," is a sham organization that is registered to an apartment in New York City that has not responded to requests from lawyers in the case.

    combines with this:

    It says Tennessee product liability law holds a seller responsible if the manufacturer cannot be found.

    to make liability for Amazon. They still wouldn't be the seller, just because the original seller can't be found. It sounds like they should still be trying to go after "W-Deals".

    • I'm curious how Tennessee law has this covered already. It'd be liking buying from a consignment shop. The store itself sells it to you, but they in no way control what people bring them for sale. I bet there's already case law that is comparable to this situation, as Amazon literally is a consignment shop when they ship third party products.
    • You might be right, but Amazon calls W-Deals a seller. That doesn't mean law will also call W-Deals a seller for this particular transaction.

      It is crudely like Amazon calls your account number Prime, but a mathematician when provided with the number might find many prime factors of the account number and refuse to accept the account number as prime. A word has different meanings in different contexts, and especially for marketing many words are misused e.g. prime, privileged, Gold/Silver/Platinum, "Free", "

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @03:53PM (#53179985)
    1) They sneak in 3rd party resellers. Lots of other sites allow 3rd party resellers - Newegg, Sears (almost entirely 3rd party), eBay, etc. For the most part, they make it damn obvious you're buying from a 3rd party, not from the site itself. Most of them even let you exclude 3rd party sellers with a single click. Amazon shows the seller name in easily-missed text in the middle of the product listing - very easy to miss. It's easier if you have Prime, as many 3rd parties don't support Prime. So you'll search for a product, click on one listed with Prime shipping, and when you go to put it in your cart you notice it doesn't have Prime shipping because Amazon has silently substituted a 3rd party seller. And I haven't been able to find an option on Amazon to exclude 3rd parties.

    2) Contamination of their supply chain. This is based on hearsay, although my personal experience seems to support it. Have you noticed the "Sold by xxx and shipped by Amazon" tags on some products? The way that works is the 3rd party seller sends their inventory to Amazon. Amazon stores it in their warehouse, and when you buy from that seller, Amazon ships it for them. The problem is Amazon seems to co-mingle 3rd party inventory with their own. So if you order a SD card, Amazon's computers grab the nearest available SD card whether it be from Amazon's inventory or a 3rd party's inventory. Your go through the effort of making sure you're buying the SD card with Amazon as the seller to try to get a genuine one, and you still end up getting a fake sent to Amazon by ConterfeitsRUs. I've basically given up buying commonly counterfeited items like flash drives from Amazon. I pay the extra to get them from a local retailer whose supply chain hasn't been contaminated this way.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      i fucking hate the third party sellers on a merchant's web site: amazon, walmart, newegg, etc. I DON'T WANT TO BUY FROM THEM. EVER. if i'm on *amazon* or *newegg* or *walmart* - i want to buy from *amazon*, *newegg* and *walmart*. that's why i went to the damn site in the first place.

      if i wanted to buy from some shady chinese guy or roll the dice on whether or not i get a "real" or "fake" product, i would have gone to ebay, for fucks' sake.

    • I've basically given up buying commonly counterfeited items like flash drives from Amazon. I pay the extra to get them from a local retailer whose supply chain hasn't been contaminated this way.

      So far every flash card I've got from Amazon has been genuine. When I get it, I go straight to the manufacturer's website and register it. I only buy SanDisk or Samsung (depending on whether I care more about cost or random access performance, respectively) and they both have preregistration.

    • by nnull ( 1148259 )
      Amazon makes this a little worse as well. A lot of "Amazon Warehouses" are actually third party sellers that Amazon has made deals with to ship products out. So expanding on point #2, you'll find counterfeit products being sold by Amazon. I was waiting for someone to sue Amazon for this, eventually someone is going to hit them for not selling listed products. All one has to do is order a coffee machine from Amazon that's not listed and simply burn their own house down, easy payout (Did I just give someone a
  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @04:06PM (#53180045)
    i have seen some inferior imported products that are normally found on ebay creep their way in to amazon, what happened to the FTC making sure products are safe? when something like this family's house burning down goes ignored or thrown out of court it sets a bad precident that encourages more faulty products to be sold in the USA, and if you dont agree i bet you will when it is your property thats destroyed because of poor quality products self destructing and taking out your entire home
    • by nnull ( 1148259 )

      We just have lousy import controls that let these products through like nothing. US Customs is simply not doing their jobs to prevent these products from coming in. Somehow Europe manages to stop a lot more of this than we do. This cheap crap also has a high cost to many other industries, including insurance. Our building and fire codes have been upgraded to deal with the cheap stuff which has caused a lot of things to literally explode in price astronomically when it used to be that we could trust certain

  • we should be able to go after the companies that SELL CHinese products. Walmart, Sears, K-Mart, Target, etc should all be held responsible for selling garbage.
    • Walmart, Sears, K-Mart, Target, etc should all be held responsible for selling garbage.

      This is essentially up to the state. California has some protections, but they are often circumvented by these specific bastards. For example, Sears will change the model numbers every year so that they don't have the correct item to replace your old item with... Alas, no state seems to really have adequate warranty protection.

    • by nnull ( 1148259 )
      The problem with these stores, they already cover themselves by selling products that are listed only. They absolve themselves out of all responsibility and the listing companies just claim it was built to specific standards. Everyones ass is covered.
  • " ... It says Tennessee product liability law holds a seller responsible if the manufacturer cannot be found. ..."

    Assuming that's true and complete, Amazon, who handles the cash for the transaction, is on the hook.

    Regardless, when you sue someone, you sue everybody who even looked like they were near the situation in question, to get at the deep pockets when the losers are found to be jointly and severally liable. It's up to each of them to convince the courts they should be dropped from the suit. So, regar
  • by dohzer ( 867770 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @05:21PM (#53180355) Homepage

    I had to look up what they were talking about in the article. It's not a hoverboard (obviously). It's one of those sideways-scooter balancey-board thingies that kids have these days.
    Not sure why they are talking about a hoverboard.

    • Welcome to the future of false promises. I also wanted a humanoid robot, but all I got was a stupid phone.
  • Amazon = eBay (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XSportSeeker ( 4641865 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @05:50PM (#53180469)

    Amazon = eBay, only sometimes even worse.

    This is what I say to everyone. I don't even bother trying to explain anymore, for most people it's just better to understand Amazon that way. Specially for people who never bought there and still have this image that everything sold at Amazon comes directly from Amazon and are all guaranteed by the company.

    Of course, if Amazon wanted to stay away from all these shitty products, they would've created the Marketplace as a separate thing. But it's obvious that they wanted people not to notice the difference. So yeah, it'll be interesting to see the results of this lawsuit. The difference between Amazon and eBay is that Amazon used to be it's own store, and it still sells their own products. eBay always was about providing a venue for people to make business. It's well understood that you are not buying anything directly from eBay.

    And Amazon also does a shit job of letting costumers know about the reputation and quality of products sold by their shitty selected vendors. Selected as in who pays a bigger part of their scam, I imagine.

    Here's the funny thing: in the past 4 years or so that I've been shopping on eBay, I've never had a single problem with the products, including external batteries, lots of electronics with LiPo batteries in them, and whatnot. And just in case it happens, I also got a fireproof pouch from eBay to keep stuff in it. xD

    Amazon, on the other hand, I had problems with fake SD cards, they now have implemented some weird system of pre-charging import taxes that are often waaay above the actual value. Sometimes they return a small percentage of it (like 3 months after the fact), often times they simply don't. And most of the products still cannot be sent to my country anyways, so there's that.

    The only advantage Amazon offers to people living in my country is that their products arrive generally faster than stuff bought from chinese stores on eBay... but that's only because they use companies like Fedex, UPS, DHL and the like that are all basically running a scam here in Brazil. They will rip you off here when it comes to charging tax, extra costs, and storage fees you never asked for. They basically hold your products hostage. On average, I'll pay 1.5x to 2x the tax costs, which usually sums up to 110%+ the product value plus shipping, when a product comes from Amazon. It arrives in a week or so. From eBay, it comes via regular mail, so I pay whatever the government actually charges, which ranges from 60% to 100%. It can take anywhere from a month to 6 months because it depends on the goodwill of governmental agencies, but it gets here, and there's no extra bullshit charges.

    And this is why I haven't been buying anything from Amazon. The last thing they had going for them was reliability for countries like mine.

    Of course, Amazon couldn't care less about the little money coming from countries like Brazil... it's cheap change for them and they have demonstrated it well enough with their horrible policies regarding overseas shipping. But yeah, the way Amazon incorporated marketplace into their main store and started selling all these products that seem to have an even worse quality control than eBay, it's quite telling.

    • by Nethead ( 1563 )

      Now I see why a coworker is so happy now that he got transferred from Brazil to California. It's been three months and he's still grinning like a puppy.

  • by Stan92057 ( 737634 ) on Sunday October 30, 2016 @06:03PM (#53180547)
    They are not hoverboards they do not hover what so ever that ride on wheels firmly planted on the ground. Call them motorized skateboards, that more closer to what they actually are.
  • A 115 comments and no one has yet mentioned that the device plugged into the AC outlet and it did not have a UL listing.

    The problem here is that UL listings (or equivalent) are voluntary and there is no legal requirement for a product to carry one. But there is a common sense requirement. Where were the parents when it came to looking at the product for safety approvals? It was free to ship it back to Amazon if they didn't like what they saw.

    And I really believe this "It alleges the family was sold a counte

  • Sadly, all products using the name "Hoverboard" are counterfeit at this point in time.

  • "The lawsuit seeks $30 million in damages and asks a jury to weigh additional financial penalties against the retailer. Nashville Fire Department officials said a hoverboard caught fire on Jan. 9, destroying a 4,000-square-foot $1 million home on Radcliff Drive, near Edwin Warner Park."

    Hmm... ok... from the pictures... I'm curious what justified a house with such a miserable kitchen to be worth a million bucks, but let's assume that a 4000ft.sq. house is worth something. It's Tennessee so the people there a

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