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Amazon loses the battle against product liability claims

When you go to a retail store and buy a product that turns out to be defective and dangerous, you’d expect that retailer to take some responsibility for any damage it causes. That’s normal and expected under product liability laws.

But Amazon is no ordinary retailer. The internet giant has long maintained that it is merely a platform for third-party sellers and customers to meet. If a tablet from one of those sellers sets itself on fire and burns down your home or a retractable dog leash breaks the first time it’s used and snaps back in your face, Amazon has argued, it can’t be held responsible.

Well, a new ruling (which Amazon is sure to appeal) out of California has national implications that could expose the company to more liability than ever before. The case involved a laptop battery provided by a third-party seller but shipped and handled by Amazon. The defective battery exploded on the buyer, causing serious injuries.

The California judge ruled that Amazon acted as a distributor for the manufacturer of the defective item. The company accepted possession of the product, stored it, attracted a buyer, provided the product listing, accepted payment for the item and shipped it out. Amazon also controlled the conditions of the battery’s sale, limited the supplying company’s access to the customer’s information and required that company to communicate with customers only through Amazon. In other words, there’s no way that Amazon wasn’t a critical part of the supply chain putting that defective item in the consumer’s hands. 

Ultimately, if this ruling stands, Amazon may no longer be able to evade liability for injuries caused by defective products. This could help many injured consumers since some of the sellers that operate through Amazon are overseas vendors who disappear in the face of lawsuits.

 If you’ve been injured by a defective product, find out more about your rights. Compensation for your losses may be available.