If an online retailer sells a product from a third party that is defective and it ultimately injures you, is the online outlet liable for that injury? Amazon says no, but a court of appeals decision from earlier this year says yes. That means West Virginia residents may be able to cite an online retailer for negligence.
Amazon’s far-reaching influence
The case involves an incident in 2015 where a lithium-ion battery caused a hoverboard to explode while charging and ultimately burned up. The hoverboard owner sustained burns as she attempted to get the item out of her home. By the time the case came to court, the Chinese manufacturer and its American distributor had gone out of business. The original court ruling sided with Amazon, saying it was only an advertiser for the product and was not responsible for product liability. The appellate court decision overturned that ruling, saying that Amazon is an influencer in the manufacturing and distribution process and so is responsible for ensuring the safety of those who buy products from its website.
Online retailers’ responsibilities
The ruling essentially means that online retailers are responsible for ensuring safety certification, indemnification and insurance before selling any product online, even those it doesn’t manufacture. Online retailers will no longer be able to hide behind the excuse that they are simply using technology to connect sellers and consumers. The decision is expected to help injured consumers get redress for product liability as many people don’t realize that online sellers are acting as platforms.
If you have been injured by an item you bought online, working with an experienced personal injury lawyer might be in your best interest. You may be able to receive compensation for pain and suffering incurred by items sold on third-party platforms.