Amazon can be held liable for products from 3rd-party sellers, appeals court rules

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This picture shows the logo of US online retail giant Amazon at the distribution center in Moenchengladbach, western Germany, on December 17, 2019. (Photo by INA FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – An appeals court ruled Thursday that Amazon can be held strictly liable in California for defective products sold on its virtual marketplace through third-party vendors, overturning a lower court’s decision that the company was not liable when a laptop battery sold to a San Diego woman exploded, causing third-degree burns.

Amazon argued it was not liable for the injuries Angela Bolger suffered in 2016 because it did not distribute, manufacture or sell the product and operated more as a service provider.

After Bolger filed suit, a lower court ruled in Amazon’s favor last year, but a three-justice panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal reversed the decision on Thursday.

The appeals court ruled that despite the fact that a third-party vendor — Lenoge, also known as E-Life — sold the battery, Amazon controlled various aspects of the transaction, including marketing the product, billing Bolger and shipping it to her in Amazon-branded packaging.

“But for Amazon’s own acts, Bolger would not have been injured. Amazon’s own acts, and its control over the product in question, form the basis for its liability,” the opinion reads. “Nothing aside from Amazon’s own choices required it to allow Lenoge to offer its product for sale, to store Lenoge’s product at its warehouse, to accept Bolger’s order, or to ship the product to her. It made these choices for its own commercial purposes. It should share in the consequences.”

Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment regarding whether it would appeal the decision.

One of Bolger’s attorneys, Jeremy Robinson, said “It is impossible to overstate the magnitude of this ruling. Consumers across the nation will feel the impact of this.”

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