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.