When The Platform Is The Product, Strict Liability Can Attach 

May, 2024 - Thomas P. Kurland, Newton Portorreal, Jr., Joshua M. Goldman

Can social media platforms be considered products for the purpose of a product liability action in New York? At least one court seems to think so — but as we explain below, its opinion appears to be the first of its kind, although there is limited precedent in New York either way. On March 18, Justice Paula Feroleto of the New York Supreme Court, Erie County, denied a motion to dismiss in Patterson v. Meta Platforms Inc. In that case, the estates of various victims of the 2022 Buffalo supermarket shooting sued internet and social media platforms like Meta, Google LLC, Snap Inc., Discord Inc., Reddit Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and 4chan. The plaintiffs alleged that the shooter was motivated by concepts he picked up from the defendants' platforms.[1] These platforms, the plaintiffs contended, are "negligently, defectively and harmfully designed 'products'," and the defendants were "therefore liable based on product liability theories."[2] 

Whether a social media platform is a product is a threshold question for determining whether strict product liability attaches. But as the New York Appellate Division, Fourth Department, explained in its 2019 opinion in In re: Eighth Judicial District Asbestos Litigation, whether or not something is a product is "often assumed" — and "none of [the appellate division's] strict products liability case law provides a clear definition of a 'product.'"[3]

To continue reading Thomas Kurland, Newton Portorreal, and Joshua Goldman's article in Law360, please click here.



WSG Member: Please login to add your comment.