(Reuters) – Amazon.com may be held liable like other traditional retailers for damages due to defective products sold through its proliferating e-commerce market, a California court of law appealed on Thursday.
The decision upheld a San Diego Supreme Court ruling that the world's largest online retailer was protected from liability because it acted as a service provider, which is not covered by California's Product Liability Act.
In addition to selling its own inventory, Amazon allows third-party vendors to list products for sale on its website. Such suppliers may store their products in Amazon's warehouse or ship them directly to customers.
The Court of Appeal found that Amazon played an important role in every step of plaintiff Angela Bolger's purchase of a new portable battery from Amazon's third-party seller Lenoge Technology HK Ltd., which operated under the fictitious name "E-Life." Bolger claimed that the battery burst into flames while balancing the laptop on her thighs, resulting in serious burns to her arms, legs and feet.
"Whatever term we use to describe Amazon's role, whether" retailer ", distributor" or just "facilitator", it was crucial to bring the product here to the consumer, "the Court of Appeal held.
Amazon has filed several lawsuits seeking to hold it liable for damages or damages caused by defective products sold by third parties, including those based abroad in China, with most courts concluding that it is not a " sellers ”according to the laws of different states on product liability. But a few decisions have gone the other way and have allowed Amazon to sue.
Both the Pennsylvania and Ohio Supreme Courts are currently considering the issue, and federal appeals courts are considering cases under California and Texas law.
The case was decided on Thursday, the friend-of-the-court's submissions were drawn from the plaintiff's legal and business groups.
The verdict comes when California lawmakers weigh legislation that would put Amazon and other online marketplace operators on equal terms under state strict laws.