E-Commerce and Marketplace Liability Overview

E-commerce plays an increasingly prominent role in our lives and major e-commerce sites – Amazon, Etsy, and eBay – are very influential. Consumers think of e-commerce sites as marketplaces but they are defining themselves as marketplace facilitators. As marketplace facilitators, they believe they are not responsible for defective products sold on their sites. 

This has been challenged in recent litigation. In CaseyGerry’s recent win against Amazon.com in Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC, San Diego’s court ruled unanimously that Amazon can be held liable for defective products sold by third parties on its marketplace. Our attorneys Jeremy K. Robinson and Thomas D. Luneau represented plaintiff, Angela Bolger in this case

Ms. Bolger bought a replacement laptop battery from a third-party seller on Amazon – a Chinese vendor who was listed under the fake name of “E-Life.” She suffered third-degree burns after the battery caught fire. This was the first ruling of its kind from any state appellate court in the nation, and it sets a new precedent around e-commerce marketplace liability in California. 

For more information, contact CaseyGerry and speak to a San Diego E-commerce product liability attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable in this specific area of law. We can answer all of your questions, evaluate your case, and help protect your legal rights.

What Is a Marketplace Facilitator?

A marketplace facilitator is a person, business, or company that contracts with third-party sellers and enables them to sell items on its platform. As a facilitator, it connects consumers to the sellers and facilitates retail sales by listing the products, processing the payments, and sometimes assisting in shipping. Amazon, Etsy, and eBay are some of the most well-known marketplace facilitators. 

The marketplace facilitators differ from brick-and-mortar stores in that they do not own the product they sell. Previously, that is how they evaded responsibility for injuries caused by defective products sold on their sites. Our firm has successfully challenged that position in California and will continue to do so. 

Recent Litigation: Why a Marketplace Facilitator Can Be Held Liable

In Bolger v. Amazon.com LLC, the court ruled that even though Amazon is a facilitator, it can still be held liable because it played a “pivotal” role in bringing the product – which in this case was defective – to the consumer. It opined that Amazon directly connected Ms. Bolger to the defective battery by providing the following services:

  • Accepting the product from the seller
  • Storing it in an Amazon warehouse
  • Attracting Ms. Bolger to the product on its website
  • Providing Ms. Bolger with a product listing
  • Receiving her payment for the product
  • Shipping the product in Amazon packaging to her

Contact us if you have any questions regarding this case or the topic of E-Commerce Liability.