California Court Finds that Amazon Strictly Liable for Defective Product

Recently, a California appellate court issued an opinion in a plaintiff’s product liability lawsuit against the popular online marketplace, Amazon, LLC (Amazon). According to the court’s opinion, the case arose after the plaintiff purchased a replacement laptop battery from a seller on Amazon. Amazon facilitated the payment, charged the plaintiff, retrieved the battery from an Amazon warehouse, prepared the product, and mailed it to the plaintiff. The battery exploded a few months after the plaintiff purchased and installed the product. The explosion caused the plaintiff to suffer serious burns.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against several parties, including Amazon and the seller who listed the website’s battery. The seller did not appear, and as such, the trial court entered a default judgment against them. Amazon moved to dismiss the case, arguing that they cannot be liable if they did not sell, distribute, or manufacture the product. The trial court found in favor of Amazon, and the plaintiffs appealed. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that Amazon is strictly liable for defective products it lists on its website.

Strict liability is a theory that imposes legal responsibility on sellers, distributors, manufacturers for defective products, regardless of whether the party engaged in any negligence. Unlike many other types of personal injury cases, strict liability does not require the fact finder to determine the defendant was negligent. In most strict liability cases, the plaintiff must establish that the product was unreasonably safe when designed, manufactured, or sold. The seller intended or expected that the product would reach the consumer, and the plaintiff suffered actual harm by the defective product.

Defendants in these cases often avoid liability by claiming that the plaintiff used the product in a way that they knew or should have known could lead to injury. Further, defendants may contend that the plaintiff’s carelessness caused their injuries or that there was an unforeseeable intervening factor that led to the actual cause of the injury.

In this case, Amazon argued that it was not a manufacturer, retailer, or distributor for strict liability purposes. It claimed that the company merely ran an “online marketplace” and that the third-party seller was the only responsible party. The appellate court found that Amazon acted as an intermediary between a supplier and a consumer because it attracted customers, accepted orders, billed customers, and remitted proceeds to the third-party seller. In this case, Amazon went the extra step and directly fulfilled the order. Although Amazon was not a seller, it operated as a link in the product-distribution chain, as is commonly understood. Further, to purchase the product, customers must add the item to their Amazon cart, they pay Amazon, and an Amazon employee retrieves the product. Taking all of these facts into consideration, the court reasoned that Amazon was involved in the “vertical distribution” of the product. Therefore, because Amazon placed itself in between the seller and consumer, they should be liable for the defective product.

Have You Suffered Injuries Because of a Defective Product in California?

If you or someone you love suffered injuries because of a defective product, contact the California product liability lawyers at the Sharifi Firm. The attorneys at our law firm have extensive experience successfully representing accident victims across the state. Our office handles cases stemming from California car accidents, motorcycle accidents, defective products, medical malpractice, and slip-and-falls. Through our representation, clients have recovered substantial amounts of compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Contact our office at 866-422-7222 to schedule your free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.

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