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Online Retail Laws and Third-party Sellers

In some ways, online retail is the “Wild West” of product liability law, because there are still many questions and relatively little precedent. Among the cases that have been resolved in this arena, some have been in favor of the victim, and some with the retailer. How do online retail giants like Amazon try to escape liability for consumer injuries?

Strict Liability

One of the biggest obstacles for some injured plaintiffs involves defective products purchased through third-party sellers on and other online marketplaces. In several cases, Amazon has argued that it is not liable for injuries caused by products shipped by third-party sellers.

However, in Bolger v. Amazon, the court held Amazon strictly liable for an exploding laptop battery that was listed on the website by a third party. The Bolger decision was followed by Loomis v., in which the court held Amazon could be strictly liable for a defective hoverboard that later caught fire, even though Amazon never had possession of the product.

To succeed in proving a strict liability claim, plaintiffs only need to show that the product was defective – not that the defendant was negligent. Proving an online retailer’s liability under a theory of negligence is more difficult than proving a strict liability claim, and oftentimes it may be cost-prohibitive for injured consumers. Being able to bring a strict liability claim benefits consumers who would not generally have the resources to identify and prove the source of the negligence that led to the product’s defects.

At present, Bolger and Loomis are the only published appellate opinions in the country holding Amazon – or any other online marketplace – strictly liable for product defects.

What These Cases Mean for Injured Consumers

These court rulings extend strict liability laws to e-commerce companies that facilitate purchases for third-party sellers on their platforms. The victories in those cases will have a dramatic future cases brought by consumers injured by defective products they purchased online.


If you or a loved one has suffered injuries and damages due to a defective product purchased on Amazon or another online marketplace, contact CaseyGerry to schedule a free consultation. Our law firm has the knowledge and resources to stand up to online retail giants and hold them accountable.