Judge calls Amazon's "shock" over abused bathroom spycam use nonsense

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Cal Jeffrey

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In context: Amazon faces personal and punitive damages in a lawsuit involving a spycam sold on its platform used to record a minor's "private moments" in her bathroom. The retail giant feels it isn't responsible for third-party sales used illegally by customers and claims it is "shocked" that someone used the product that way.

The lawsuit's plaintiff is a Brazilian minor of unspecified age who was living with a host family in West Virginia. Darrel Wells, the homeowner of the host family, allegedly installed a camera disguised as a towel hook in the girl's private bathroom and recorded her for months.

After filing a motion to dismiss in April, a federal district judge has ruled that "shock" is not a valid justification for throwing out the case. He was not buying Amazon's reasoning, saying it's hard to believe the company was shocked when its Product Safety Team approved the marketing copy and images suggesting customers use it for spying in bathrooms.

"Amazon approved product descriptions suggesting consumers use [the spycam] to record private moments in a bathroom," wrote US District Judge Robert Chambers in his opinion. "Amazon cannot claim shock when a consumer does just that. These allegations raise a reasonable inference Amazon sold a camera knowing it would be used to record a third party in a bathroom without their consent."

The marketing material on the now-removed product page showed a picture of bath towels hanging on hooks with the ad copy reading, "It won't attract attention" and "A very ordinary hook." It also contained a caption pointing toward one of the hooks that said, "REC on video." The copy in the product's description was similar, with plaintiff attorneys saying, "The whole vibe was just kind of creepy."

Judge Chambers also dismissed Amazon's argument that it was not responsible for "physical" damages because none were listed. The plaintiff claims the incident caused "chronic tremors, insomnia, headaches, nausea, hypotension with associated blurred vision, dizziness, compulsive overeating, avoidance behavior, and paranoia." Amazon's legal team claiming these are not physical damages didn't fly with the judge.

"If proven, [the plaintiff's] damages are severe," Chambers wrote. "Emotional trauma inflicted during a child's 'tender years' has an 'indelible effect' from which 'they may never recover.'"

Both sides are highly concerned with the outcome of the case.

The plaintiff's attorneys feel a win would set needed precedence since there aren't many cases regarding this and other recent technological devices being misused or irresponsibly sold. Amazon's legal team thinks a ruling in the plaintiff's favor is dangerous and would lead to a defacto outlawing of similar devices, even when legitimate uses exist.

Although Judge Chambers denied Amazon's motion to dismiss, he mentioned that the burden is on the plaintiff to prove the "foreseeability" of the illegal use that Amazon appears to have missed.

"Generally, a person does not have a duty to protect others from the deliberate criminal conduct of third parties," the ruling reads, citing precedence from 1995 and 2020. "Yet a duty of protection may arise if the person's 'affirmative actions or omissions' expose others 'to a foreseeable high risk of harm from the intentional misconduct.' Foreseeability is key."

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Amazon shouldn’t be any more liable than a gun manufacturer when guns they’ve produced are used illegally. Hopefully, this gets thrown out. Just trying to get money.
There's a key difference between gun manufacturers and Amazon: Amazon is a distribution platform. If it is hosting a product that is advertised for illegal use, then it could very well be held responsible. A better comparison would be to a gun store. If the store used mass shootings or other illegal activities in their marketing material, they too could be held liable. (There's also a difference in that buyers are supposed to be vetted before they can make a gun purchase, which further limits the comparison.)

As the judge noted, forseeability is key. If you know someone is going to use a gun for a mass shooting and you sell it to them, you're on the hook. If it's unknowable, then you're not. And a product advertised for nefarious use cases, well, we'll see how the case pans out (or not, depending on if the case keeps the attention of the media enough for us to see follow-up articles on it b/c I'm too forgetful to check).
 
There's a key difference between gun manufacturers and Amazon: Amazon is a distribution platform. If it is hosting a product that is advertised for illegal use, then it could very well be held responsible. A better comparison would be to a gun store. If the store used mass shootings or other illegal activities in their marketing material, they too could be held liable. (There's also a difference in that buyers are supposed to be vetted before they can make a gun purchase, which further limits the comparison.)

As the judge noted, forseeability is key. If you know someone is going to use a gun for a mass shooting and you sell it to them, you're on the hook. If it's unknowable, then you're not. And a product advertised for nefarious use cases, well, we'll see how the case pans out (or not, depending on if the case keeps the attention of the media enough for us to see follow-up articles on it b/c I'm too forgetful to check).
A perfect summary. The ads showing it being used to record people in the bathroom was monumentally stupid on amazon's part. It'd be different if this was a third party seller.....but this was sold and promoted by amazon themselves. Major mistake.
 
Amazon shouldn’t be any more liable than a gun manufacturer when guns they’ve produced are used illegally. Hopefully, this gets thrown out. Just trying to get money.

Couldn't disagree more. Those gun bastards should all be swinging from nooses.
 
There is literally an entire department at Amazon that helps sellers write their product descriptions. How is that position even defensible?
 
There's a key difference between gun manufacturers and Amazon: Amazon is a distribution platform. If it is hosting a product that is advertised for illegal use, then it could very well be held responsible. A better comparison would be to a gun store. If the store used mass shootings or other illegal activities in their marketing material, they too could be held liable. (There's also a difference in that buyers are supposed to be vetted before they can make a gun purchase, which further limits the comparison.)

As the judge noted, forseeability is key. If you know someone is going to use a gun for a mass shooting and you sell it to them, you're on the hook. If it's unknowable, then you're not. And a product advertised for nefarious use cases, well, we'll see how the case pans out (or not, depending on if the case keeps the attention of the media enough for us to see follow-up articles on it b/c I'm too forgetful to check).
The difference in your analogy was Amazon didn't write the marketing the seller did, and I don't think it's possible for Amazon to personally read everything that's posted on its site since it's so massive to see if it's shady.

Why isn't anyone blaming the seller or manufacture of a product designed specifically to spy on people in bathrooms? That's where the real problem is.

Couldn't disagree more. Those gun bastards should all be swinging from nooses.
I couldn't disagree with you more. There aren't enough police in the US to stop anyone from harming anyone else. Your safety is up to you. You are on your own if someone wants to attack you and that likely won't be right next to a police station or a cop. Furthermore, how are gun manufacturers responsible for the crimes people commit? Any person who's killed someone with a gun has broken numerous laws, why are you blaming the manufacturer who hasn't broken any laws and not the person actually breaking the law? Should Levi jeans be held accountable for providing jeans to people who commit murder?
 
There is literally an entire department at Amazon that helps sellers write their product descriptions. How is that position even defensible?
There is no way anyone at Amazon wrote the marketing on this product. If they did there is no defense that will save them.
 
If Amazon feel they might lose - it will be resolved before court can pass a judgement - with a non-disclosure cause

Again the plaintiff in civil case may be limited by limited damages - you can win these cases - but court says - no monetary damages or little - will depend on laws - so even if a $10000 win + lawyers cost - not worth it for others to take cases - if just they get hit with $30000 lawyer fees
 
The difference in your analogy was Amazon didn't write the marketing the seller did, and I don't think it's possible for Amazon to personally read everything that's posted on its site since it's so massive to see if it's shady.

Why isn't anyone blaming the seller or manufacture of a product designed specifically to spy on people in bathrooms? That's where the real problem is.


I couldn't disagree with you more. There aren't enough police in the US to stop anyone from harming anyone else. Your safety is up to you. You are on your own if someone wants to attack you and that likely won't be right next to a police station or a cop. Furthermore, how are gun manufacturers responsible for the crimes people commit? Any person who's killed someone with a gun has broken numerous laws, why are you blaming the manufacturer who hasn't broken any laws and not the person actually breaking the law? Should Levi jeans be held accountable for providing jeans to people who commit murder?
Per the article, Amazon's "Product Safety Team" approved the marketing material. They may not have written it, but they approved it.

The ruling by the judge simply allows the lawsuit to proceed. It still remains up to the plaintiffs to prove to the court that Amazon is responsible. I'm not a lawyer, so apart from forseeability mentioned by the judge, I'm not sure what that entails.

It would not surprise me if there is a separate lawsuit against the manufacturer, though it isn't mentioned here in the article. More importantly, I hope that criminal charges were filed against the host family that conducted the spying in the first place.
 
Per the article, Amazon's "Product Safety Team" approved the marketing material. They may not have written it, but they approved it.

The ruling by the judge simply allows the lawsuit to proceed. It still remains up to the plaintiffs to prove to the court that Amazon is responsible. I'm not a lawyer, so apart from forseeability mentioned by the judge, I'm not sure what that entails.

It would not surprise me if there is a separate lawsuit against the manufacturer, though it isn't mentioned here in the article. More importantly, I hope that criminal charges were filed against the host family that conducted the spying in the first place.
Totally agree. Why is Amazon the main issue here doesn't make any sense. It's not great they are selling a device designed to spy on people in the bathroom, but it's a whole other thing to buy it then install it to spy on people in the bathroom.
 
There's a key difference between gun manufacturers and Amazon: Amazon is a distribution platform. If it is hosting a product that is advertised for illegal use, then it could very well be held responsible. A better comparison would be to a gun store. If the store used mass shootings or other illegal activities in their marketing material, they too could be held liable. (There's also a difference in that buyers are supposed to be vetted before they can make a gun purchase, which further limits the comparison.)

As the judge noted, forseeability is key. If you know someone is going to use a gun for a mass shooting and you sell it to them, you're on the hook. If it's unknowable, then you're not. And a product advertised for nefarious use cases, well, we'll see how the case pans out (or not, depending on if the case keeps the attention of the media enough for us to see follow-up articles on it b/c I'm too forgetful to check).
You just don’t know that. A massive majority of weapons produced are used for recreation and self defense. A very very very small portion of the guns in the US are used to kill or commit crimes, so your assertion is invalid.
 
You just don’t know that. A massive majority of weapons produced are used for recreation and self defense. A very very very small portion of the guns in the US are used to kill or commit crimes, so your assertion is invalid.
This seems like a severe reaction from a pro gun lobbyist who did not read or fully understand human7’s answer.

If you promote a product for use in illegal purposes you can be held liable. Can being the word used, not will. It does not matter a gun or a toothbrush.
 
This seems like a severe reaction from a pro gun lobbyist who did not read or fully understand human7’s answer.

If you promote a product for use in illegal purposes you can be held liable. Can being the word used, not will. It does not matter a gun or a toothbrush.
Show me one ad from a gun manufacturer where they promote its use for illegal activities.
 
The screen grab of the product page says it all. It's a third party seller. No, Amazon did not approve the listing text, photos, etc. Nobody at Amazon looks at these pages unless there's a problem. If Amazon was selling it and promoting it as an illegal device? Sure, go after them. But this is a seller, probably from China, using Amazon as his store front.
 
There's a key difference between gun manufacturers and Amazon: Amazon is a distribution platform. If it is hosting a product that is advertised for illegal use, then it could very well be held responsible. A better comparison would be to a gun store. If the store used mass shootings or other illegal activities in their marketing material, they too could be held liable. (There's also a difference in that buyers are supposed to be vetted before they can make a gun purchase, which further limits the comparison.)

As the judge noted, forseeability is key. If you know someone is going to use a gun for a mass shooting and you sell it to them, you're on the hook. If it's unknowable, then you're not. And a product advertised for nefarious use cases, well, we'll see how the case pans out (or not, depending on if the case keeps the attention of the media enough for us to see follow-up articles on it b/c I'm too forgetful to check).

I love how you are trying to create a false association between some pervert and unlawful advertising to try to undermine the very thing that has kept the criminals in power at bay for so long when their criminals in criminal organizations like the FBI intentionally give weapons, drugs and other materials to ensure false flag attacks to further convince people to give up their rights and become slaves. That is called marxism and the abolishment of private property is called slavery. You just took advantage of the situation to promote slavery.
 
Whole thread shows gun nuts and inability to comprehend law or language. When comments were about advertising, not guns

I use to be a supporter of gun rights. Now happy for them to be all taken away based on comments on this thread.
 
Whole thread shows gun nuts and inability to comprehend law or language. When comments were about advertising, not guns

I use to be a supporter of gun rights. Now happy for them to be all taken away based on comments on this thread.
Defending rights requires lawful force against marxist slavers who willingly use criminal force to enslave people. Since you clearly want to disarm lawful people that makes you a marxist slaver and traitor to whatever country or nation you physically live in.
 
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