Amazon can now be held liable for unsafe products sold on its platform just like other retailers, in a major blow to the ecommerce giant.
The California Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that Amazon can now be held liable for any injuries caused by defective products sold by third party merchants on its platform, overturning a previous ruling by the San Diego Superior Court.
Until now Amazon has been legally regarded as a “service provider”, enabling it to shift liability to the independent third-party retailers selling on its platform.
However, this designation was challenged in a landmark blow to the retailer as the court ruled that Amazon oversaw every step of the retail journey and should therefore be held accountable for the products it sells.
“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,” the appeals court said.
“Under established principles of strict liability, Amazon should be held liable if a product sold through its website turns out to be defective.”
The ruling was made after plaintiff Angela Bolger took Amazon to court over a replacement laptop battery purchased through its marketplace caught fire and gave a her third degree burns.
“Consumers across the nation will feel the impact of this,” Bolger’s attorney Jeremy Robinson said.
Amazon faces a number of ongoing product liability cases across the US at both state and federal courts, and both Ohio and Pennsylvania’s top courts are considering the issue.