The general consensus is that consumers should be able to hold companies and manufacturers liable if they are injured by a defective product. However, in the age of online shopping, determining which party should be held liable for a defective product can become difficult. Amazon is the online shopping giant, and the company has long held that they should not be responsible for any defective product sold by third parties on their website. However, recent rulings around the country, including one in California, show that courts seem to be turning against Amazon on this matter.
When Amazon started selling books in the 1990s, most people could not have predicted that the company would end up selling just about anything you can think of. From books and children’s toys to appliances and even vehicles, Amazon is a major distributor of products from hundreds of thousands of manufacturers. However, Amazon has argued that they should not be held liable if a defective product makes it into the hands of consumers because they are simply the middle man in the transaction process. The courts have long agreed with this argument, until now.
A decision by the California Court of Appeal’s Fourth Appellate District in San Diego this month (August 2020), is one of the first nationwide court decisions to reject Amazon’s third-party defense against product liability cases. In a case brought by a San Diego woman injured by a laptop battery that exploded, the court ruled that Amazon could be held liable for injuries. In 2016, the woman bought a laptop battery manufactured by Hong Kong-based company but distributed by Amazon. A few months after she purchased the battery, it caught fire and caused serious injuries to the woman’s hands. She spent several weeks in the hospital and still suffers from her injuries today.
Amazon, as expected, plans to fight the ruling. In an email, a company spokesperson said they will appeal the decision, and that “The court’s decision was wrongly decided and is contrary to well-established law in California and around the country that service providers are not liable for third-party products they do not make or sell.”
Under California’s strict liability doctrine, which applies to other major retailers in the state, the courts determined that Amazon was more than just a facilitator of the laptop battery in this case. They charged the injured woman’s credit card and shipped the product from an Amazon-owned warehouse. The product arrived in Amazon packaging. Clearly, according to the court, Amazon was more than just the distributor.
If you or somebody you care about has been injured by a defective product, you may be entitled to significant compensation. At Mancini & Associates, our skilled and experienced California product liability lawyers will thoroughly investigate your case so we can secure the compensation you are entitled to. This could include coverage for: