The California State Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that Amazon can be held liable for faulty products sold on its marketplace. This decision stems from a case in which Angela Bolger received third-degree burns from a defective replacement laptop battery sold by a third-party seller on Amazon.com. The new ruling reverses the trial court’s judgment which was in favor of Amazon.
For several years, Amazon has fought liability lawsuits alleging that it must be held accountable for defective products sold by third-party sellers. The appellate court’s new decision could have great consequences for the company, which was found by a lower court in 2019 to have no coverage by liability laws. According to CNBC, “Amazon has long maintained it’s only the conduit between buyers and sellers on its marketplace and that it’s not involved in the sourcing or distribution of products sold by third-party sellers, removing it from liability.”
Plaintiff Bolger claimed to have purchased her replacement laptop battery from seller “E-Life,” a “fictitious name used on Amazon by Lenoge Technology (HK) Ltd.” After she was charged for the purchase, Amazon allegedly “retrieved the laptop battery from its location in an Amazon warehouse, prepared the battery for shipment in Amazon-branded packaging, and sent it to Bolger.”
In her first complaint, Bolger “alleged causes of action for strict products liability, negligent products liability, breach of [an] implied warranty,” among other things. Lenoge defaulted in the case, but the court granted Amazon’s motion for summary judgment, which argued that it was not responsible “because it did not distribute, manufacture, or sell the product in question.” However, the court agreed with Bolger’s appeal, which claimed that Amazon did in fact act as a distributor in this case.
An Amazon spokesperson wrote in an email to The Verge that the company would appeal the decision. “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,” she wrote.
Bolger is represented by Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield. Amazon is represented by Perkins Coie.