Amazon can be held liable for defective products that they sell from third parties on its Marketplace and are “Fulfilled by Amazon.” In August 2020, an appeals court in California reversed a 2019 trial court ruling and stated that federal law does not shield Amazon from third-party defective product liability.
When you purchase a product, you expect it to work as it was designed. If you have problems with it or are badly injured, you have the right to hold the parties involved in the chain of distribution of that product responsible. That includes Amazon, even though they are a third-party seller.
Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC (2020)
The ruling mentioned above by the Court of Appeal was made in this case, Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC. Angela Bolger bought a replacement battery for her laptop from a third-party seller on Amazon. She alleged that after several months it exploded and severely burned her to the point where she was hospitalized. She filed several causes of action, including strict liability, against both Amazon and the third-party seller. Strict liability is a legal theory that allows consumers to hold sellers or manufacturers of defective products accountable without proving negligence. A victim can recover damages (compensation) even if the manufacturer, or seller, in this case, used appropriate care. They must only demonstrate that the product had a defect, the defect caused the victim’s injury, and the defect made the product unreasonably dangerous.
The trial court initially agreed with Amazon that they were not strictly liable because they did not distribute, manufacture, or sell the laptop battery. This is the decision reversed by the Court of appeal last August because the Court concluded that Amazon may not have been the seller but was a critical link in the chain of distribution. Amazon appealed this decision, but the California Supreme Court denied their petition for review.
Loomis v. Amazon.com, LLC
Another landmark decision in April 2021 made by California’s Court of Appeal (Second Appellate District) reversed a previous trial court decision similar to the Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC case. Initially, the trial court in Loomis v. Amazon.com, LLC agreed with Amazon that they were not strictly liable for a defective hoverboard that lit on fire. Kisha Loomis bought a hoverboard through a third party on the Amazon marketplace from a Chinese company called SMILETO. Her son charged it in her bedroom, then the hoverboard, as well as the plaintiff’s bedroom, caught fire. While fighting the fire, Loomis suffered burns to her hand and foot. The Court of Appeal found Amazon to be strictly liable in this case, as they had control over and were integral to the chain of commerce, as well as received a financial benefit from it. Amazon may attempt to appeal this decision.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a defective product sold on the Amazon marketplace, contact CaseyGerry to talk with one of our San Diego e-commerce product liability attorneys about how we can help. Call us at (619) 238-1811 today or use our contact form.