A California appeals court ruled that Amazon is a retailer responsible for the products it sells, rejecting the eCommerce giant’s claim that it’s a middleman connecting buyers and sellers, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Kisha Loomis of California, according to the case file, bought her son a hoverboard via Amazon in December 2015. As occurred numerous times with the devices, the hoverboard’s battery caught on fire. Loomis suffered burns tossing the burning object from her home. The hoverboard’s Chinese manufacturer had gone out of business. Loomis sued Amazon.
“The primary issue on appeal is whether Amazon may be held strictly liable for Loomis’s injuries from the defective product,” the appeals court justices wrote.
They noted that under California law, “strict liability on the manufacturer and retailer alike affords maximum protection to the injured plaintiff and works no injustice to the defendants, for they can adjust the costs of such protection between them in the course of their continuing business relationship.”
The justices also wrote: “As technology advances, innovation is paving the way to new business practices. Amazon is on the leading edge of eCommerce. Based on our review of Amazon’s third-party business model … we are persuaded that Amazon’s own business practices make it a direct link in the vertical chain of distribution under California’s strict liability doctrine. Contrary to Amazon’s assertion that it merely provided an online storefront for (the hoverboard retailer) and others to sell their wares, it is undisputed Amazon placed itself squarely between TurnUpUp, the seller, and Loomis, the buyer, in the transaction at issue.”
The appeals justices noted in their ruling that while Amazon makes it clear to customers that they’re buying products from other companies, Amazon remains deeply involved in the process, handling money sent from customers and controlling how products may be described on amazon.com.
The Los Angeles Times quoted an Amazon spokeswoman as having said the company would not comment on the ruling, but “Amazon invests heavily in the safety and authenticity of all products offered in our store, including proactively vetting sellers and products before being listed, and continuously monitoring our store for signals of a concern.”