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Is Amazon Liable for Defective Products?

Amazon reported more than $280 billion in revenue last year, making the company the top online retailer in the world. About half of all e-commerce in the United States involves Amazon, and people have about 12 million products delivered to their homes each year from Amazon. More than half of Amazon’s products come from third-party vendors that utilize Amazon as a marketplace for their products, and there are more than $5 million marketplace sellers throughout the world from which you can order on Amazon. 

With the vast volume of products passing through Amazon’s market, there are certain to be some that are defective and cause injuries to consumers. The question has been raised whether Amazon can be held liable for product defects and resulting injuries.

Decision by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals

The United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that Amazon should be accountable for products sold through its marketplace, even if the products come from third-party vendors. The case Oberdorf v. Amazon.com Inc., 18-1041 (3d Cir. 2018), reached the Court of Appeals after the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ruled that Amazon should not be strictly liable for defective products coming from other sellers. 

This case was filed by a plaintiff who was injured by a retractable leash that malfunctioned and hit her in the eye, causing permanent blindness in the left eye. She purchased the leash from a company called The Furry Gang via Amazon.com. Following her injury, she could not locate information on the third-party seller, as it was no longer active on Amazon. For this reason, she filed a claim against Amazon itself to recover for her serious and disabling injury. The lower court found that Amazon was not a “seller” under the law and, therefore, should not be strictly liable for the defective leash. 

The Third Circuit heard Oberdorf’s appeal and reversed the decision. The Court of Appeals used a specific test to determine whether or not Amazon should be considered a “seller” that should share liability for defective products sold through its marketplace. Ultimately, the Court found that Amazon does constitute a seller, meaning that consumers injured by third-party products sold on Amazon.com should be able to seek compensation from the retail giant directly. 

What This Means

The Third Circuit Appeals panel was one of the first major court decisions holding Amazon liable for third-party products. Since the decision, other district courts have followed suit, though there is not a national precedent for this type of case. If you are injured by a product sold on Amazon, it is best to discuss the matter with an experienced product liability attorney in Los Lunas. You must preserve the defective product, proof of delivery, keep the box, and all shipping labels to prove proof of purchase.

If you Have Been Tragically Contact a Los Lunas Product Liability Attorney Right Away

The Law Firm of David C. Chavez, LLC, handles complex product liability cases involving many types of retailers. If you were injured by a malfunctioning product, please call 505-865-9696 or contact us online for a free case evaluation as soon as possible.

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