Saturday, August 15, 2020

California appellate court finds that Amazon can be sued for products liability

In an important new decision, a California state appellate court recently held that Amazon is subject to product liability claims for defective goods sold on its website by third-party vendors. The case is called Bolger v. Amazon and you can read the opinion here.

The key to why this is important is that last phrase: "third party vendors."  Amazon did not manufacture or retail the product.  It merely provided a space for the retailer to "connect" with its buyers.  For that reason, Amazon argued that it was not part of the chain of distribution, as that concept is typically used in products liability cases.  But the court held that “Whatever term we use to describe Amazon’s role, be it ‘retailer,’ ‘distributor,’ or merely ‘facilitator,’ it was pivotal in bringing the product here to the consumer.”

This case follows the first successful product liability case against Amazon (in Pennsylvania) which was then appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and remanded to Pennsylvania Supreme Court this past June.  That case is now pending.

For more on Bolger v. Amazon, go to Courthouse News Service, LawStreet, and the ABA Journal.

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