A California appeals court has ruled that those injured by defective products purchased on Amazon.com have a right to file a lawsuit against Amazon. The ruling made by the California Fourth District Court of Appeals is somewhat groundbreaking. The Court revised a trial court ruling that held that a plaintiff who suffered severe burns from a defective laptop battery purchased on Amazon could not sue Amazon.
The Case Involved a Defective Laptop Battery Purchased on Amazon
The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Angela Bolger claims that she purchased a replacement laptop battery on Amazon. She purchased the battery from the fictitious company “E-Life,” which was a false name for the company Lenoge Technology Ltd. The company shipped her purchase to her using packaging branded with Amazon’s logo. The battery exploded while she was using her laptop, a few months later. As a result of the explosion, she suffered severe third-degree burns.
Amazon Has Managed to Escape Liability So Far
The California court’s ruling is notable because up until now, Amazon has always argued that it is only an intermediary between third-party sellers and buyers. Amazon refers to this online store as the “Amazon Marketplace.” However, there is no unique or specific place within the Amazon website for third-party sellers. Amazon itself is a massive seller of goods on the Amazon website. Often, third-party sellers appear in regular listings on the website. There is only a small line of text that shows that a third-party, not Amazon, is not the seller, making it difficult for customers to understand from whom they are purchasing a product.
Amazon is Facing Multiple Lawsuits Regarding Defective Products
California’s ruling may be the first of many different state court rulings regarding Amazon and product liability lawsuits. The company is currently facing multiple other lawsuits over defective products in other courts throughout the United States. An Amazon spokesperson has stated that the company will appeal to the California court’s ruling. They maintain that under California law, and the laws in other states, service providers cannot be held liable for third-party products that they do not sell or make.
Amazon Brings Products to the Consumer
It the Court’s ruling, the justices wrote 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,” In other words, the Court is not letting Amazon escape liability by claiming that they are not directly involved in the chain of manufacturing, distribution, and retail of products. Ultimately, the court rules that a victim of a defective product purchased on Amazon has the right to use Amazon directly.
The issue, in this case, involved the legal question of whether Amazon was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries under strict product liability, or under negligence. The plaintiff contended that Amazon is the most valuable retail company in the world, earning nearly 50% of all retail dollars within the United States. Amazon has claimed that it is merely a provider of services, not an actual “seller” of the goods.
The plaintiff also relied on a recent Supreme Court case that held that a marketplace operator is essentially the same as a retailer in an antitrust context. Also, California enacted the “Marketplace Facilitator Act,” which labels Amazon as the seller and retailer for every sale that the company facilitates through its marketplace for tax purposes.
What Happens Now?
California courts are not the only courts to have held Amazon liable for purchases made through third-party sellers. An Ohio court made a similar ruling and a South Carolina court recently ruled that for tax purposes, Amazon is a product seller. It will be up to each individual state court system to determine whether they will extend that idea into the area of product liability law. Amazon serves the purposes of both a distributor and a retailer and consumer rights advocates are glad that courts are slowly beginning to rule that Amazon should be held liable, just as any other distributor is under strict liability and negligence rules.
Contact Our Experienced Lawyers as Soon as Possible
If you have suffered an injury from a product that you purchased on Amazon, it is important that you speak to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. The experienced Alabama personal injury lawyers at Heninger Garrison Davis will evaluate your case and advise you of your best legal options. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.