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Amazon can be held responsible for defective merchandise, the court rules



Peter Endig | AFP | beautiful images

The California appeals court’s decision could soon make it difficult for Amazon to hold liability for unsafe products sold on its platform.

On Thursday, California’s District 4 Court of Appeal ruled that Amazon could be responsible for the damage caused by a faulty replacement laptop battery that caught fire and left a woman with third degree burns. The woman, Angela Bolger, alleged that she purchased the laptop battery from a third-party seller, Lenoge Technology HK Ltd., on the Amazon marketplace.

This ruling dealt a blow to Amazon, which for many years successfully resisted lawsuits attempting to place the company accountable for defective products sold through its website, causing injury. and property damage.

“Consumers across the country will feel the impact of this,”

; said Jeremy Robinson, Bolger’s attorney.

Representatives from Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon’s vast marketplace, home to millions of third-party sellers, now accounts for about 60% of the company’s e-commerce sales. While the marketplace helped Amazon generate record sales, it has also been shown to be a store of counterfeit goods, secure aviation, and even out of date. In the past, the company said it invested hundreds of millions of dollars a year to ensure the products sold were safe and compliant.

Amazon has long maintained it as just a conduit between buyers and sellers in its market and it does not engage in sourcing or distributing products sold by third-party sellers, eliminating legal responsibility. Previously, it had been a successful safeguard for Amazon, including the 2018 case involving the purchase of a faulty mouse pad that exploded and burned down the home of an Amazon shopper in Tennessee.

The company still faces a number of product liability lawsuits in federal and state courts across the country.

In Bolger’s case, the court ruled that Amazon had placed itself in the “distribution chain” of faulty laptop batteries by storing the product in its warehouse, receiving payments and shipping the product, as well. such as setting out its “relationship terms” with third-party sellers and asking “substantial fees per purchase.”

Regardless of the term we use to describe Amazon’s role, be it ‘retailer’, ‘distributor’ or just plain ‘supporter’, it said, the court said. all play a key role in bringing products to consumers “. “Under established strict liability guidelines, Amazon is liable if a product sold through its website is faulty.”

The court said Amazon also cannot be protected from liability through Section 230 of the Communication Frameworks Act, a law from the 1990s that protects online platforms from liability. about the content users post on their website.

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