Court Rules that Amazon Can be Held Liable for Products Sold on Marketplace

Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos provides the keynote address at the Air Force Association's Annual Air, Space & Cyber Conference in Oxen Hill, MD, on September 19, 2018. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

An appeals court ruled this week that e-commerce giant Amazon can be held liable in California for defective products sold on the site’s marketplace by third-party sellers.

The Verge reports that the California Fourth District Court of Appeals has reversed a 2019 trial court ruling and reinstated claims made by a woman who suffered third-degree burns from a defective laptop battery she bought from a third-party seller on Amazon. This means that e-commerce giant Amazon can now be held liable for defective products sold on its Marketplace by third-party sellers in the state of California.

This decision could have major repercussions for Amazon which has argued that it only serves as an intermediary between buyers and third-party sellers on its Marketplace. This position has generally protected Amazon from liability for items purchased on the Marketplace, until now. Amazon is now facing multiple other lawsuits over defective products in other courts.

Angela Bolger claimed that she purchased a replacement laptop battery on Amazon from E-Life, a front company for Lenoge Technology, which shipped the battery to her in Amazon-branded packaging. Bolger claims that months later the battery exploded, she also alleges that she was never notified of safety concerns that resulted in E-Life being banned from Amazon’s platform.

In 2019, a lower court ruled that Amazon was not covered under product liability laws. It was also ruled that the Communications Decency Act (CDA) would not have protected Amazon from Bolger’s claims under California state law. Bolger appealed the ruling arguing that in California, strict liability doesn’t depend just on where a sale was made or not.

The appeals court stated in its ruling that Amazon was central to the laptop battery sale in Bolger’s case. The court stated: “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.” The court added that Amazon should be liable if a product on its website is defective.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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