Lee v. Amazon.com, Inc.Annotate this Case
California’s 1986 Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, Health & Saf. Code 25249.5, Proposition 65, provides that no business shall "knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving clear and reasonable warning.” Mercury compounds are listed as Proposition 65 reproductive toxins. Cosmetics containing 0.0001 percent or more of mercury are prohibited under federal law, 21 U.S.C. 331(a)–(c). Lee alleged skin-lightening creams offered for sale on Amazon’s Web site sold by third parties, contain mercury.
The trial court concluded that Amazon is immune from liability under the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA), 47 U.S.C. 230, and that Lee failed to establish elements required by Proposition 65. The court of appeal reversed. The stated reasons for concluding that a laboratory test finding a high level of mercury in one unit of a skin-lightening cream is an insufficient basis for inferring other units of the same product contain mercury do not withstand scrutiny. The trial court erred in ruling that Lee was required to prove Amazon had actual knowledge the products contained mercury and in excluding evidence of constructive knowledge. The negligent failure to warn claim did not seek to hold a website owner liable as the “publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider,” so CDA did not bar the claim.