April 28, 2021
In August 2020, new rulings in cases against Amazon have stated that the company would be held liable for products sold on its marketplace. Even if a defective or faulty product is sold by 3rd party sellers on the Amazon marketplace, the company would be held liable for any damages or injuries suffered.
A woman suffered 3rd-degree burns when a defective replacement laptop battery purchased from a third-party reseller on Amazon caught fire. The woman, Angela Bolger alleged that she purchased the product from Lenoge Technology HK Ltd. that is a third-party seller on Amazon’s marketplace.
The California Fourth District Court of Appeals held Amazon liable for all the damages and injuries suffered by the victim because of the defective battery in a laptop. The court stated, “Under established principles of strict liability, Amazon should be held liable if a product sold through its website turns out to be defective.”
Amazon’s marketplace through which third-party sellers sell their products accounts for almost 60 per cent of the company’s e-commerce sales. The company had stated that each year it invests hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure the safety and authenticity of the products sold on its platform.
Angela Bolger sued Amazon and Lenoge for negligent products liability, breach of express and implied warranty, and negligent undertaking.
Amazon argued that since it was not the “seller” of the battery, strict liability was not applicable to it. It stated that they were an “online marketplace” and Lenoge was the product seller. The trial court was satisfied with Amazon’s argument and turned down Bolger’s appeal.
Bolger further approached the Court of Appeals where the judgment was reversed. The court of appeals stated that Amazon may be termed as a retailer or distributor or a facilitator, whatever its role may be, it is the one that delivers the product to the consumer. Hence it cannot shy away from any liability.
Amazon had taken possession of the product from Lenoge and stored it in their warehouse. They were responsible for attracting Bolger to the Amazon website and providing her with the listing for Lenoge’s product. They received the payment for the product and also shipped the product from their warehouse in Amazon packing.
In terms of Amazon’s relationship with Lenoge, Amazon controlled the conditions of Lenoge’s offer for sale on Amazon they limited Lenoge’s access to Amazon’s customer information and forced them to communicate with customers through Amazon. Amazon received indemnification and substantial fees on each purchase made.
The court emphasized the fact that Lenoge was not involved in the sales transaction; it was Amazon that approved and completed the sale.
The court also mentioned that in case a product is returned under the FBA program, the product is shipped back to Amazon and not the seller. The inspection of the product and whether it can be resold is determined by Amazon.
Unlike other court rulings deciding on Amazon’s liability in case of third party seller products, in Bolger vs. Amazon, the court found that Amazon was an integral part of the production and marketing enterprise. Hence Amazon could be strictly liable for any product defect.
Bolger v. Amazon is a significant ruling for claims against Amazon for product defect under California law. As per the ruling, Amazon can be held strictly liable for defective products sold by its third-party vendors using the “Fulfillment by Amazon” program
This ruling of holding Amazon liable for injuries suffered due to defective products could have widespread implications. Over the years, the eCommerce giant has been trying to avoid taking any responsibility for defective and unsafe products sold on its platform.
Amazon has always strongly argued that they play no role in sourcing and distribution of products sold by third-party sellers on their platform. However, the latest ruling was a big jolt for the e-commerce giant and could be a precedent for hundreds of cases waiting to be heard.
Contact an Amazon Product Liability Law Firm
If you have received a defective product or have got injured due to a faulty product from Amazon, speak to a California product liability lawyer at the earliest. We at Khashan Law can represent you and hold the sellers of defective products responsible.
Our team of experienced product liability lawyers will assist you with your lawsuit and get your due compensation. We will stand by your side and guide you through the case.
We will fight for your rights and ensure you get compensated for medical bills, pain, suffering, wage loss, etc. in case of injuries due to defective products. Contact us and for a free personal injury consultation with members of our legal team.