For years, Amazon has found ways to escape liability for injuries its customers have sustained by products purchased online. They took careful steps to organize the company in such a way that would allow them to sidestep any responsibility for goods sold by third-parties. Their attorneys were able to put off the inevitable for a long time, but the tide seems to be turning in the direction of the consumer.
A California court has ruled that Amazon is now liable for defective products sold on their website. Product liability claims against the online retail giant have been difficult to pursue but when a court determines that legitimate legal grounds exist, it opens the door to finally holding Amazon accountable. Maybe the retailer will now have to begin tightening their inspection process for prospective dangerous products they put into the hands of consumers.
Amazon is losing defective product battles but the war is far from over
Courts have been hesitant for years to hold Amazon responsible for injuries caused by products they’ve sold. The basis of their claim has been that the company serves as nothing more than a middleman with no ties to either the product or the contract created between the seller and purchaser. In simplest form, their argument has always amounted to “don’t shoot the messenger” for providing an arena to market goods and arranging to get items from one place to another.
Now, their legal role in these transactions appears to be changing to protect unsuspecting consumers in California under the legal theory of strict liability. Strict liability provides that an injured party only needs to prove he/she was hurt by a particular product. The intent of the manufacturer or anyone else in the chain of distribution is irrelevant.
Amazon has long enjoyed the protection of state laws that excluded them from the fault a seller is ordinarily subject to for product liability. California is now considering their status to be equal to any other online retailer, giving consumers a chance to succeed in winning damages for everything from burn injuries to house fires caused by products sold by Amazon.
Other states considering a change in how the corporation is treated with regard to these lawsuits include:
The fact that any state is allowing Amazon to absorb its share of product liability is creating favorable precedent for personal injury victims in other states. Where attorneys may have previously steered clients away from pursuing a claim against Amazon based on its ability to evade responsibility, they may now be able to move forward with cases against Amazon in a similar fashion as to any other retailer who puts a dangerous product on the market.
How can I tell if an Amazon product is defective?
While Amazon does have an area on its website to announce product recalls, odds are that it won’t be a complete list. The company, including its Marketplace sellers, offers over 350 million products to consumers. Currently Amazon only lists two recalled product notifications. According to the Insurance Information Institute, there were 58 children’s products recalled in 2019 alone.
Your best option to protect your family from injury related to products already purchased is to periodically check the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for recalls. Moving forward, check for recalls on items you intend to buy from Amazon Marketplace before finalizing your purchase.
You can also report unsafe products on the CPSC website if no recall has been issued for a defective item that has injured you.
It’s a story our experienced legal professionals hear often. You put your trust into companies to sell safe products. When you bring those products into your home and end up hurt, it feels like a betrayal of trust. Sometimes justice comes in the form of a civil suit that shows companies they will be held accountable.
The product liability attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP aggressively pursue claims against anyone who helped put a dangerous product into your home or business that injured you. Schedule your free case evaluation by calling our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847, our Savannah office at 912-417-3774, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page to tell us your story.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
Read more about Jeffrey R. Harris here.