EPIC Submits Amicus Brief Urging Ninth Circuit to Permit Product Liability Claims Against Amazon in Case About the Sale of Suicide Chemicals to Minors

December 12, 2023

Today, EPIC submitted an amicus brief in McCarthy v. Amazon, a Ninth Circuit case considering whether Amazon can be sued under product liability for selling sodium nitrite to minors in concentrations that will kill them. This case is one of many attempting to hold major online retailers accountable for the unsafe products sold on their websites.

The Plaintiffs’ children committed suicide using a highly concentrated form of sodium nitrite sold on Amazon. Drawing on product liability and the law of negligence, the Plaintiffs are suing Amazon for failing to warn its users or remove sodium nitrite product pages from its website after years of knowing the chemical was used for suicide and had no legitimate household uses. Amazon argues that the court should dismiss all of the Plaintiffs’ claims because the dangers of sodium nitrite were obvious, so it had no obligation to warn users or stop selling the chemical on its website. The district court agreed with Amazon, and the Plaintiffs appealed.

EPIC’s amicus brief supports the Plaintiffs’ argument, showing that Amazon was in a better position to prevent children’s deaths because of all the ways they profile users, manipulative user behavior, and control what products are available on its website. All these actions make Amazon the “cheapest cost avoider” of suicide by sodium nitrite under product liability law, so Plaintiffs’ claims should be heard on their merits. EPIC regularly submits amicus briefs in cases involving abusive, exploitative, and discriminatory data collection, algorithmic decision-making, and online design decisions.

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