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Jacob Lehman and Mike Dolan of German, Gallagher & Murtagh Jacob Lehman and Mike Dolan of German, Gallagher & Murtagh

Back in the dark ages of tort law a person injured by a defective product had no recourse absent privity of contract with the seller. That changed in the 1960s with the development of strict liability laws that allowed a plaintiff to bring suit against any party responsible for placing a product into the stream of commerce. As with almost everything though, technology, notably the rise of e-commerce, seemed to disrupt what had been a settled principle. In a series of decisions over the past five years online marketplace retailers led by the king of them all, Amazon, won a spate of rulings seemingly insulating them from tort liability for products sold on their websites. Now, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s recent panel decision in Oberdorf v. Amazon, the pendulum may have started to swing the other way.

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