Appellate Amazonlazarus Angelestimes: CA appellate court rules Amazon is responsible for the safety of third-party products it sells, rejecting Amazon’s claim of merely connecting buyers and sellers
A recent Court of Appeals decision in California has ruled that online retailer Amazon.com must take responsibility for ensuring the safety of products sold by third-party vendors and that it is not only a “neutral technology platform” as they have previously claimed. This decision may have ramifications on other similar companies as well such as eBay or Craigslist.
The decision follows an incident in 2013 when the plaintiff, Douglas Soltyski, purchased a hoverboard with a defective battery that presented a fire hazard. Soltyski sued Amazon, who then claimed under the Communications Decency Act that they were not liable for the actions of third-party vendors. However, California’s 2nd District Court of Appeals disagreed, stating that Amazon is “in a position to control [the product] as much as or more than its seller. Its ability to limit and control the product’s ability to cause injury satisfies the traditional requirement of any seller of a defective product.”
The court reasoned that Amazon is a primary seller of products, not merely a “platform” for connecting buyers and sellers and thus must be responsible for ensuring their safety. The Court also rejected Amazon’s claim that they are a “mere conduit” for third-party vendors. The Court stated:
The decision draws parallels with similar claims brought against companies such as Airbnb, Uber, or eBay. In 2012, a jury found Airbnb responsible for the death of a guest in New York City after it refused to remove his unregistered guests and fined the company $2.8 million. In 2015, the jury in San Francisco found that Uber was also responsible for passenger negligence and fined them $258 million.
In this decision, Amazon also has to decide whether or not to appeal the ruling and if so, how they will defend themselves against such claims.
A similar case against Amazon and other companies in this industry, including eBay, Craigslist and others may take place in the near future.