Ruling Against Amazon Could Ripple across Ecommerce

Wed July 3 2019 17:25:54

By: Ina Steiner

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If a customer is harmed by a product purchased from an Amazon seller, could the online marketplace be found responsible? For the first time, a court found Amazon may be liable for potentially defective products sold by third-party merchants.

Reuters covered the case and stated that liability for defective products is generally governed by state law – in this case, a Pennsylvania woman was injured when a retractable dog leash blinded her in one eye.
The ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is far different from one we reported on in May involving a house fire in Maryland started by an allegedly defective product sold by an Amazon merchant. In that case, a judge for the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said state laws would have to be changed before the courts could rule any differently, but she clearly felt dissatisfied with the outcome.
According to TechCrunch, Amazon has yet to comment on dog leash case and wrote, “it seems likely the company will ultimately appeal the ruling. A lower court will rule on whether the leash that caused Oberdorf’s injury was, indeed, defective.”

The case could have serious repercussions for online sellers, such as how Amazon deals with third-party merchants and whether sites like eBay and Etsy could similarly be impacted.

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