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Amazon Can Be Liable For Defective Goods Sold On Its Marketplace, California Court Says

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Amazon.com, Inc. can be held liable for damages caused by defective goods sold on its Marketplace including third parties, according to a ruling by a California appeals court.

The California Fourth District Court of Appeals was pronouncing the ruling in a case where a defective replacement laptop battery caught fire and inflicted a woman with third-degree burns.

According to the court ruling, Angela Bolger had bought a replacement laptop computer battery on online shopping website Amazon. The Amazon listing for the battery identified the seller as "E-Life," a fictitious name used on Amazon by Lenoge Technology (HK) Ltd.

The e-commerce giant charged Bolger for the purchase, retrieved the laptop battery from its location in an Amazon warehouse, prepared the battery for shipment in Amazon-branded packaging, and sent it to Bolger. Bolger alleges the battery exploded several months later, and she suffered severe burns as a result.

Amazon primarily argued that the doctrine of strict products liability, as well as any similar tort theory, did not apply to it because it did not distribute, manufacture, or sell the product in question, stating that Lenoge was the product seller, not Amazon.

The trial court had agreed and granted Amazon's motion. However, Bolger filed an appeal and argued that Amazon is strictly liable for defective products offered on its website by third-party sellers like Lenoge.

The appeals court said, "Under established principles of strict liability, Amazon should be held liable if a product sold through its website turns out to be defective."

The ruling in this case has dealt a major blow for the online retail giant. Amazon has several ongoing product liability cases in federal courts across the U.S. Until now, it has successfully warded of such cases in the past, claiming that its marketplace is only the conduit between buyers and sellers.

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