A California appeals court ruled that Amazon is responsible for defective products sold through its marketplace, even if those are sold by third parties. This decision has a significant impact on Amazon, which previously managed to avoid liability by claiming it was merely a service provider.
“Whatever the term we use to describe the role of Amazon, be it ‘retailer’, ‘distributor’ or just ‘intermediary’, it was crucial in getting the product here to the consumer,” said Judge Patricia Guerrero in their decision. “Under the established principles of strict liability, Amazon should be held liable if a product sold through its website is found to be defective.”
Strict liability is a standard of law that holds individuals responsible for injury caused by their actions, even when there is no fault or malicious intent.
The court’s ruling overturns a San Diego Supreme Court ruling last year. The case concerned Angela Bolger from San Diego, who worked with Amazon to purchase a replacement laptop battery from an Amazon seller listed as “E-Life” – a pseudonym for Lenoge Technology (HK) Ltd. A few months after Bolger received the battery, it exploded. cause severe burns to her.
Bolger sued Amazon, which successfully argued that it could not be held accountable as it only provides an online marketplace service and does not make, distribute, or sell the battery.
However, the appellate court found that while the battery did not come from Amazon, the company’s involvement went beyond that of a pure online marketplace like eBay, as Amazon handled payment and shipping and stored the battery in one of its warehouses.
“Amazon accepted ownership of the Lenoge product, stored it in an Amazon warehouse, pulled Bolger onto the Amazon website, provided her with a product listing for Lenoge’s product, received payment for the product, and shipped the product in Amazon packaging to them, “said Guerrero. “Amazon set the terms of its relationship with Lenoge, controlled the terms of Lenoge’s offer to sell on Amazon, restricted Lenoge’s access to Amazon’s customer information, forced Lenoge to communicate with customers through Amazon, and paid compensation and substantial fees required for every purchase. “
“Amazon is a direct link in the distribution chain and acts as a powerful intermediary between the third party seller and the consumer,” continued Guerrero. “Bolger’s claims are based on Amazon’s role in the production and distribution chain of an allegedly flawed product.”
The ruling follows an earlier ruling by the Philadelphia Court of Appeals last year that also found Amazon may be held liable for defects in third-party products. Such insights open up Amazon to a wide variety of complaints from customers seeking appeals for defective third-party products – lawsuits that Amazon would no doubt prefer to avoid.
Mashable has asked Amazon for a comment.