Court Says Amazon Liable for Third-Party Product Flaws

Court Says Amazon Liable for Third-Party Product Flaws
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A landmark court ruling in the United States has said that Amazon is liable for any defective third-party products or potential injuries resulting from a product purchased through the e-commerce giant. 

According to a filing in the California Court of Appeals, Amazon should be held as a liable party for any product sold on the platform that is defective, or results in an injury for the customer. 

Amazon has stated repeatedly that the e-commerce platform remains a facilitator of the purchase, and acts as a middleman between the third-party vendor and the customer. That has previously protected Amazon from court cases involving defective products and previous injuries stemming from third-party product sales. 

The California Fourth District Court of Appeals most recent ruling reverses the outcome of a 2019 trial court ruling that received third-degree burns after a laptop battery ignited, who purchased the defective replacement battery from a third-party seller on Amazon. 

The woman in question, Angela Bolger is cited as the primary plaintiff and appellant on the court documents after purchasing the laptop through a third-party vendor called Lenoge Technology HK Ltd that was using Amazon’s marketplace to sell products. 

According to a report from CNBC, “the court ruled that Amazon placed itself in ‘the chain of distribution’ of the faulty laptop battery by, among other things, storing the product in its warehouses, receiving payment and shipping the product, as well as setting ‘the terms of the relationship’ with the third-party seller and demanding ‘substantial fees on each purchase.’”

The court said that “whatever term we use to describe Amazon’s role, be it ‘retailer,’ ‘distributor,’ or merely ‘facilitator,’ it was pivotal in bringing the product here to the consumer,” adding that Amazon should remain liable for defective or potentially hazardous third party products sole on its marketplace. 

“Under established principles of strict liability, Amazon should be held liable if a product sold through its website turns out to be defective.” 

The Court added that Amazon is not subject to protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which protects platforms like Amazon and Facebook for being held liable for the communications of their users on the sites. 

Court Says Amazon Liable for Third-Party Product Flaws

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Jeremy Robinson, Bolger’s attorney has told the media that “It is impossible to overstate the magnitude of this ruling… consumers across the nation will feel the impact of this.”

Robinson added that “this case moves product liability law into the twenty-first century.”  

A spokesperson from Amazon has told The Verge that “the court’s decision was wrongly decided and is contrary to well-established law in California and around the country that service providers are not liable for third party products they do not make or sell.” 

Amazon added that the company “will appeal this decision.” 

Several media reports have noted that Amazon has used this defence a number of times in the past, the most notable a “2018 case concerning the purchase of a faulty hoverboard that exploded and burned down an Amazon shopper’s house in Tennessee,” according to Annie Palmer. 

Court Says Amazon Liable for Third-Party Product Flaws 

A landmark court ruling in the United States has said that Amazon is liable for any defective products or potential injuries resulting from a product purchased through the e-commerce giant. 

According to a filing in the California Court of Appeals, Amazon should be held as a liable party for any product sold on the platform that is defective, or results in an injury for the customer. 

Amazon has stated repeatedly that the e-commerce platform remains a facilitator of the purchase, and acts as a middleman between the third-party vendor and the customer. That has previously protected Amazon from court cases involving defective products and previous injuries stemming from third-party product sales. 

The California Fourth District Court of Appeals most recent ruling reverses the outcome of a 2019 trial court ruling that received third-degree burns after a laptop battery ignited, who purchased the defective replacement battery from a third-party seller on Amazon. 

The woman in question, Angela Bolger is cited as the primary plaintiff and appellant on the court documents after purchasing the laptop through a third-party vendor called Lenoge Technology HK Ltd that was using Amazon’s marketplace to sell products. 

According to a report from CNBC, “the court ruled that Amazon placed itself in ‘the chain of distribution’ of the faulty laptop battery by, among other things, storing the product in its warehouses, receiving payment and shipping the product, as well as setting ‘the terms of the relationship’ with the third-party seller and demanding ‘substantial fees on each purchase.’”

The court said that “whatever term we use to describe Amazon’s role, be it ‘retailer,’ ‘distributor,’ or merely ‘facilitator,’ it was pivotal in bringing the product here to the consumer,” adding that Amazon should remain liable for defective or potentially hazardous third party products sole on its marketplace. 

“Under established principles of strict liability, Amazon should be held liable if a product sold through its website turns out to be defective.” 

The Court added that Amazon is not subject to protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which protects platforms like Amazon and Facebook for being held liable for the communications of their users on the sites. 

Jeremy Robinson, Bolger’s attorney has told the media that “It is impossible to overstate the magnitude of this ruling… consumers across the nation will feel the impact of this.”

Robinson added that “this case moves product liability law into the twenty-first century.”  

A spokesperson from Amazon has told The Verge that “the court’s decision was wrongly decided and is contrary to well-established law in California and around the country that service providers are not liable for third party products they do not make or sell.” 

Amazon added that the company “will appeal this decision.” 

Several media reports have noted that Amazon has used this defence a number of times in the past, the most notable a “2018 case concerning the purchase of a faulty hoverboard that exploded and burned down an Amazon shopper’s house in Tennessee,” according to Annie Palmer. 

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