California Court Rules Amazon Can Be Held Liable for Defective Products
A California court has dealt a major blow to online retail giant Amazon by ruling that the company can be held liable for defective products sold on the site by third-party vendors. According to a report in The Daily Mail, the three-justice panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeal overturned a lower court’s decision that Amazon was not liable for an exploding laptop battery that severely injured a woman in San Diego.
Severe Burn Injuries
Angela Bolger filed the lawsuit saying that the battery she purchased from Amazon marketplace vendor, Lenoge Technology (also known as E-Life) exploded back in 2016, causing her third-degree burn injuries. The appeals court found that Amazon controlled key aspects of the transaction, including marketing the product, billing Bolger, and shipping the battery to her in Amazon-branded packaging.
Bolger was left with severe burns and had to be hospitalized for two weeks, according to court documents. She filed a lawsuit against Amazon in January 2017. Three months later, Amazon sent her an email warning that the replacement battery she received may be a fire hazard. The appellate court’s opinion stated that “but for Amazon’s own acts, Bolger would not have been injured.” It was decided that Amazon’s own acts and control over the product in question form the basis for liability in this case.
Court’s Reasoning for Liability
The ruling is a big blow for Amazon, which relies heavily on third-party vendors for more than half of its sales. About 40% of goods sold on Amazon’s marketplace are items that Amazon itself selects, purchases from distributors, and sells directly to the public. Third-party vendors sell the rest with Amazon taking a share of the sales price. The appellate court found that Amazon acted as an intermediary between an upstream supplier and the eventual consumer. As a result, it was decided that the company had strict liability for defective products.
Our product defect attorneys believe there is no question that this ruling is a big win for consumers. Amazon has faced a number of lawsuits across the country seeking to hold it responsible for damage or injuries caused by defective products sold by third parties, including those based overseas. It remains to be seen how this landmark decision is played out in other similar cases against Amazon and in future product liability lawsuits that are filed against the online retail giant.