Legal Roundup: Amazon to Pay for Defective Goods, N.J. Mask Rant Suit Reaches Courts and More

The latest court filings and cases that will have an impact on the risk management and insurance industry.
By: | August 19, 2021

Amazon to Pay Up To $1,000 for Defective Goods

The Case: The Consumer Product Safety Commission brought a suit against Amazon, saying that the retailer refused to take action to remove defective and unsafe products from its marketplace.

The concern is that Amazon has failed to protect the public from items offered by third-party merchants on its “fulfilled by Amazon” program.

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: Despite many product liability cases concerning marketplace sellers, Amazon has claimed that it’s not liable for third-party offerings on its site.

Still, in an effort to stem the rising tide of similar lawsuits, Amazon announced it would “pay customers up to $1,000 for defective products sold on its marketplace by third-party merchants that cause property damage or personal injury,” according to the Washington Post.

The retailer may also address claims over $1,000 if the marketplace seller is unresponsive.

Amazon’s “new policy also requires third-party sellers to obtain product liability insurance once they hit $10,000 in sales in a month,” as reported by the Post.

The new policy goes into effect on September 1.

McDonald’s Settles COVID-19 Suit with Workers

The Case: A lawsuit, filed by workers, claims that managers at an Oakland, Calif., McDonald’s franchise failed to adequately protect staff from COVID-19, distributing “dog diapers and coffee filters to use as face masks,” as reported by Reuters.

Scorecard: The franchise has settled the case.

Takeaway: As new coronavirus cases increase in the U.S., the fast food outlet pledges to reduce transmission by establishing a worker safety committee, offering employees “paid sick leave, masks and gloves, maintain social distancing, regularly disinfect surfaces and require workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home,” writes Reuters.

In settlement, McDonald’s denies wrongdoing.

McDonald’s just announced a vaccine mandate for office workers based in the United States, joining a growing movement of corporations requiring vaccinations, including Google, Uber, and The New York Stock Exchange, according to Reuters.

Judge: Mask Refusal Rant Not Protected Free Speech

The Case: A New Jersey Citibank employee filed suit against a customer who screamed at her when asked to put on a mask while conducting business inside the branch.

The case was filed in the Superior Court of Bergen County.

The defendant claimed her outraged response was protected free speech, according to the Washington Post. The incident went viral on the internet, according to

Scorecard: New Jersey Superior Court Judge Robert C. Wilson has denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Takeaway: The case will proceed. The plaintiff’s attorney said “the civil case is a first in the pandemic, filed by an employee caught between enforcing coronavirus safety policies and contentious customers,” as reported in the Post.

The pandemic has inspired a number of cases pitting essential workers against people who refuse to adhere to safety guidelines designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Brown University Faces Sexual Misconduct Suit

The Case: A federal class action lawsuit was filed by four current and former female students at Brown University, alleging that the school “grievously mishandled complaints of sexual misconduct.”

The suit, which is now in front of the U.S. District Court of the District of Rhode Island, claims that the university “systematically and repeatedly failed to protect women from rape and other sexual misconduct,” as reported by the Associated Press.

The plaintiffs say that the school silenced and actively thwarted complaints of sexual assault, and that this practice violates several provisions of Title IX mandates.

The students had attempted to make changes “from within,” according to the filing, and created an Instagram account to document instances of abuse.

Within a matter of months, over a hundred survivor reports were logged on the account. The group also led on-campus protests and an email campaign prior to turning to the courts.

Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.

Takeaway: According to the AP, “If granted by a judge, their class action suit would cover all women who attended Brown starting in 2018 and were survivors of sexual violence.”

This case is one of many recent higher ed harassment complaints.

Earlier this year, the University of Southern California reached an $852 million settlement with hundreds of women who accused the school’s gynecologist of sexual abuse; Dartmouth College in 2019 settled a complaint that it ignored harassment and abuse of students by former psychology professors, according to the AP. &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected].

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