Until 2019, online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay were not held liable for injuries caused by products sold by third-party sellers on their websites. As e-commerce platforms continue to take a larger share of the market, courts have reassessed their role and influence on consumers.
Consumers purchase a product based on the reputation of the online marketplace that has listed it. If Amazon lists a product from a third-party seller, consumers assume it has already been vetted by Amazon and it is safe to purchase. Online marketplaces — once referred to as merely “facilitators” — aren’t just that and changes in legislation are recognizing this. Recent court decisions, including CaseyGerry’s win against Amazon, emphasize where the product was purchased, the consumer’s reliance on the online marketplace’s reputation, and the significant amount of profits these platforms make.
For more information, contact CaseyGerry. Our attorneys are experienced and knowledgeable in this area of law and can help answer any questions or uncertainties you have. We believe e-commerce marketplaces should be held liable for your injuries and have successfully challenged liability legislation in court. When you need an attorney, we are here to protect your legal rights.
How Liability Legislation Has Changed
In earlier cases, online marketplaces like Amazon had managed to evade responsibility. The court had ruled in 2019 that Amazon’s conduct wasn’t a necessary factor in bringing the defective product — in this case a hoverboard — to the consumer, stating that the market for this product would’ve nevertheless existed. However, just a year later, in 2020, California set a new precedent.
In Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC, the appellate court overturned a lower court decision and ruled that Amazon was liable for injuries caused by a third-party seller listed on its site. The court opined that Amazon played a pivotal role in bringing the product to the consumer — from storing the product in an Amazon warehouse, shipping the product in Amazon-branded packaging, receiving payment for the product, and of course, attracting the consumer to the product listing on their website in the first place.
In Amazon’s business model, there is clear and direct involvement with the consumer at every stage of the purchase: Consumers directly communicate with Amazon — not the third-party seller. It’s also true that consumers trust Amazon to sell safe products and consistently rely on Amazon’s reputation when purchasing a product from an unfamiliar third-party seller.
The California General Assembly introduced a bill (“AB 1182”) in February 2021, which would expand strict product liability to online marketplaces. It proposed that an online marketplace would not require a title as the “seller” of the product or own the defective product to face liability. Under California’s strict liability statute, any “electronic place or internet website that is engaged in the business of placing or facilitating the placement of products into the stream of commerce in [California]” could be held liable. This bill did not pass in the last session, but it may again gain support.
We stay up-to-date with any new developments in liability legislation and can help answer any questions or concerns you may have. Feel free to contact us today.