Over the past decade, Amazon has skyrocketed from a small online forum for third-party vendors to the nation’s largest online retailer. Their cardboard boxes adorned with a smile-shaped arrow are delivered to billions of houses across the world on a daily basis. Consumers typically turn to Amazon as a one-stop-shop that offers cheaper products and quick shipping. With the high volume of packages that are delivered each day, some of the products are bound to be faulty—even Amazon can’t be perfect. But what happens when these quick-shipped, defective products lead to serious injuries? Will Amazon take the blame or leave you empty-handed?
Groundbreaking California Case
One woman's battle with Amazon began back in 2016 when her recently purchased laptop battery exploded and left her with third-degree burns on her arms, legs, and feet as well as damaging her San Diego apartment. In the five years since the incident, the victim has had skin graft surgery to repair the scars that the $12.30 replacement battery left behind, and pursued a product liability case to hold Amazon accountable. The woman is not the first, and certainly not the last, person to be injured by products sold by the global enterprise. However, a California state appeals court ruled that Amazon can be held liable for defective products sold on their site this past August.
Amazon’s responsibility for the defective product may seem like a no-brainer — they did sell the woman the dangerous battery. However, the company has repeatedly come away scot-free from cases like this one. Amazon’s core defense against complaints like this one is simple: the company is an online marketplace facilitator that helps manufacturers connect with customers on a global scale, not a distributor or retailer that is subject to product liability law. A trial judge initially ruled Amazon to be dismissed from the liability case, but after the victim appealed the ruling, the appellate court reversed this decision.
California’s strict product liability doctrine holds Amazon accountable as more than just a facilitator in this case. This law applies to other major retailers in the state, including Walmart and Target. The case looked at the details of the woman's relationship with Amazon — the company charged her credit card, shipped the battery from one of the Amazon warehouses, the package arrived in Amazon’s distinct packaging, and the victim was told to return any items back to Amazon itself.
A similar case has yet to appear in Illinois courtrooms, though many have sued Amazon for copyright infringement, BIPA violations, and recalled products. Despite the ruling being made in a California court, it is predicted that holding Amazon accountable could have implications nationwide about how product liability cases are handled moving forward. Some attribute these outdated rulings to the fact that product liability laws were written decades ago, long before the Internet existed. With groundbreaking rulings like these, Amazon and other online marketplaces may face increased responsibility for their actions in future product liability cases.
Contact an Aurora, IL Product Liability Attorney
If you have been injured by a faulty product that you purchase online, you deserve to be compensated for its financial implications, including medical bills, ongoing physical therapy, and any other damage that occurred as a result. At Kinnally Flaherty Krentz Loran Hodge & Masur P.C., we believe that those who have caused harm should be held accountable, regardless of the company’s size. Our legal team is prepared to help you pursue damages for the personal and financial harm that you have experienced. Contact our Kane County product liability lawyers at 630-907-0909 to schedule your free consultation.