Amazon could be held liable for defective products sold on their Marketplace in California, an appeals court ruled on Thursday. California’s District 4 Court of Appeal reversed the 2019 court ruling and reinstated a lawsuit by a woman who said she suffered third degree burns when a faulty laptop battery she bought from a seller Third parties on Amazon caught fire.
This decision could have devastating consequences for Amazon, the company has argued for years that it only acts as an intermediary between third-party buyers and sellers on the Market portion of its platform. That stance has protected Amazon from liability for products on the Marketplace, i.e. so far. The company is currently facing several other lawsuits over defective products in other courts.
Angela Bolger said she bought a replacement laptop battery on Amazon from E-Life, a fictitious company name of Lenoge Technology Ltd., which ships her batteries in Amazon-branded packaging. A few months later, Bolger claimed, the battery had exploded. She says she has never been notified of the safety concerns that led to E-Life being banned on Amazon’s platform.
A lower court ruled in 2019 that Amazon is not protected under product liability laws. The tribunal also ruled that the Information Rules Act would not protect the company from Bolger’s claims under California law. Bolger appealed that ruling, arguing that in California, strict liability not only depends on whether a sale is made.
In its ruling, the court of appeals said Amazon was at the center in the sale of laptop batteries in Bolger’s case. Regardless of the term we use to describe Amazon’s role, be it ‘retailer’, ‘distributor’ or merely ‘facilitator’, the court wrote. A key role in getting products to consumers. “The court added that Amazon is held accountable if a product on its website is defective.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.