Amazon can't shrug off responsibility for defective goods sold on its website by third parties, a California appeals court decided Thursday, dealing a major blow to the e-commerce giant. The California Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled that Amazon can be held liable for damage in a case brought by a woman who said she suffered severe burns when a defective battery she bought from Lenoge Technology HK Ltd. through Amazon's marketplace exploded, CNBC reports. Amazon argued that it shouldn't be held accountable because it didn't make or distribute the battery, but the appeals court ruled that the company's involvement in the purchase went beyond that seen on marketplace sites like eBay, reports Mashable.
The court notes that Amazon stored the product in one of its warehouses, received payment for the product, and shipped it to the consumer in Amazon packaging. "Whatever term we use to describe Amazon’s role, be it 'retailer,' 'distributor,' or merely 'facilitator,' it was pivotal in bringing the product here to the consumer," Justice Patricia Guerrero said. "Under established principles of strict liability, Amazon should be held liable if a product sold through its website turns out to be defective." Amazon, which makes around 60% of its e-commerce revenue from its marketplace, has successfully fought off similar lawsuits in the past. "Consumers across the nation will feel the impact of this," predicted an attorney for plaintiff Angela Bolger. (This family sued Amazon after a defective hoverboard caused a fire that destroyed their home.)