Journal of Law and Policy


Aaron Doyer


Pennsylvania, like other states, has struggled over the past few decades to apply the policy principles of product defect law—a tort characterized by strict liability. Because strict liability bypasses the traditional requirement in tort that a plaintiff prove the defendant’s negligence, and instead requires only a showing that the plaintiff was injured by a product sold in a defective condition, these inquiries raise a deceptively simple question: who sells? Recently, in a landmark case in Pennsylvania, the Third Circuit made waves by declaring Amazon.com, an enormous online marketplace, the legal “seller” of a product shipped and sold by a vendor through its website. Amazon.com has challenged that ruling and continues to assert its innocence for its part in the transaction. Pennsylvania, like many other states, relies on the Restatement (Second) of Torts Section 402A as controlling its products liability jurisprudence. Accordingly, the ultimate result of Amazon’s battle in Pennsylvania will have implications for its online marketplace throughout the country. This Note examines the history of products liability in Pennsylvania and proposes an analysis born out of that history to more appropriately determine seller status that, by virtue of Section 402A’s widespread adoption, should be largely applicable in many other states.