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Etsy, Seller Sued after Heartbreaking Death of a Child

Etsy
Etsy and Seller Sued after Heartbreaking Death of a Child

A mom is suing Etsy and a seller after her son was accidentally strangled to death in 2016 when wearing a teething necklace that a friend had purchased on Etsy.

CBS covered the heartbreaking story after Etsy appeared in court on Monday to object to the case – the judge overruled the “demurrer.”

The news reporter published Etsy’s Terms of Use where it states that the company makes no warranties about the quality, safety, or legality of the items that are produced and listed by independent sellers. “Any legal claim related to an item you purchased must be brought directly against the seller of the item. You release Etsy from any claims related to items sold through our Services…”

But the mom’s lawyer said she didn’t agree to the terms of use since the item was given to her as a gift. The seller is reportedly located in Lithuania.

We have a question in to Etsy about its policies and resources for sellers of children’s items, and if had made any changes to policies around children’s products.

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Some sellers won’t list without product liability insurance, but many sellers don’t even think about issues of product safety when selling online. That’s a big mistake, and this case is a reminder to sellers about the safety of the products they sell and the liability they face.

Etsy has insurance policies that “cover a number of risks and potential liabilities, such as general liability, property coverage, errors, and omissions liability, employment liability, business interruptions, data breaches, crime, product liability, and directors’ and officers’ liability,” though we’re not sure of how of if that might help them in this case.

Ten years ago, this was a big issue when the Consumer Product Safety Commission instituted new rules requiring manufacturers of children’s toys (including artisans) to certify that their products have been tested by an authorized third-party laboratory.

While we’re on the topic of product safety, do you regularly check your items to see if they’ve been recalled?

Don’t just do it to spare yourself a lawsuit – you could avoid putting someone’s life in danger.

UPDATE: An Etsy spokesperson provided the following statement: “Deacon’s death was a great tragedy and our hearts are with his mother and family. While we understand the desire to take action, Etsy is a platform and did not make or directly sell this item. We believe the allegations should be directed at the criminally-negligent daycare providers or, if appropriate, the seller of the necklace. The seller has not had any products on our website since last year and we do not represent the seller in any way.”

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

4 thoughts on “Etsy, Seller Sued after Heartbreaking Death of a Child”

  1. I don’t understand how the mom has standing to sue Etsy. She wasn’t the purchaser. I assume she doesn’t want to sue her friend who gave her the gift, and suing someone in Lithuania will probably go nowhere (how do they serve the court papers in a foreign country?). While I’m very sorry the woman’s son died, it seems like she’s suing Etsy because she thinks they would be willing to offer a large settlement.

  2. So the seller is in Lithuania? Good luck with that one then. Suing someone in another country is notoriously expensive and difficult. It might make more sense to sue the friend who bought it.

  3. Does the mother not have any responsibility to determine whether the item is suitable for a young child? Sounds like passing the buck to me.

  4. Seriously?!? Why would anyone put anything on an unsupervised baby that wraps around their neck? Or make something of the sort for that matter? That’s tantamount to putting a plastic bag in the crib with the child for them to suffocate on.

    I’ve always seen teething rings and pacifiers on short laces that are safety pinned to the child’s clothing — no risk of choking there because it only reaches far enough to get to their mouth. So, as far as I’m concerned, the seller/maker, friend, mother and daycare providers are the ones to blame.

    However, Etsy should make sure that their sellers are offering safe baby and children’s products. The U.S. has strict standards that must be met and, as Ina stated, most sellers don’t think of such things. Etsy requires us to follow international laws (ie, EU VAT and return policies) if we want to sell internationally, so why not U.S. law as well? Especially when it comes to innocent children?

    I don’t care what their policies state, they are aiding and abetting those breaking the law. If they don’t want any liability, then they need to stop allowing it. Unfortunately, just like all the other illegal products and ones that otherwise violate their TOU (non-vintage, supply or handmade; handmade, but not by you or your staff; trademark infringements; fakes; and the list goes on), they often remain up for sale despite being reported. For that, they are liable.

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