California’s Court of Appeals Amazon Product Liability Decision: Latest News

by Staff | August 23rd, 2021

The recent decision by California’s Court of Appeals regarding Amazon’s product liability in defective products sold by third parties on its platform may have profound repercussions not just for Amazon but for operators of all e-commerce sites.

The April 26, 2021, decision in Loomis v. LLC went against Amazon in a development likely to open doors to more lawsuits and redefine industry norms. Amazon and others may now be held liable for injuries sustained due to defective products sold on their platforms in the state of California.

What Was the Case About?

Loomis v. LLC was a lawsuit brought by plaintiff Kisha Loomis against Amazon for injuries sustained while using a defective hoverboard. The hoverboard was purchased from a third-party seller, TurnUpUP (a username employed by a Chinese company, SMILETO), through Amazon’s website.

Plugged in, the hoverboard caused a fire in which Loomis sustained injuries to her hand and foot. California’s Court of Appeals was charged with deciding whether strict liability could be attributed to Amazon for Loomis’ injuries.

In its defense, Amazon argued that it was not liable for Loomis’s injuries because it was only a service provider and not the seller or manufacturer and therefore wasn’t subject to strict product liability.

The Decision

The Court leaned on Bolger v. Amazon LLC, a 2020 decision by the California Court of Appeals. The Court found Amazon liable for the cost of injuries arising from defective products because it was an integral part of the overall supply chain.

Consequently, the Court found that Amazon played a role in ensuring product safety according to its own Business Solutions Agreement (BSA), making it a direct link in the vertical chain of distribution. Because Amazon was pivotal in supplying the hoverboard to Loomis, it played a role in ensuring product safety and could therefore be held strictly liable under California’s strict liability doctrine for Loomis’s injuries. 

What’s Happening Now

Amazon is now considering whether to appeal the case at the California Supreme Court.  While the high court passed on taking up the Bolger v. Amazon case, it may be more likely to consider Loomis v. Amazon LLC, given its broader ramifications for Amazon and other e-commerce sites. Meanwhile, a bill to govern online marketplace liability has been reintroduced in the California Legislature.

Elsewhere, a similar suit in Texas seeking to hold Amazon liable for a toddler’s injury was struck down by the Texas Supreme Court in a 5-2 opinion on June 25, 2021, finding that Amazon was not a seller in the matter. Nevertheless, Amazon is likely to be held increasingly liable in the wake of the California decision.

If you have been injured by a defective product purchased from a third party on Amazon in the San Francisco area, contact Berg Injury Lawyers for a complimentary consultation. We provide support in San Francisco product liability law cases.

What it Means

Courts are becoming increasingly willing to entertain the notion that Amazon shares responsibility for defective products purchased from its platform and sold by third-party companies. This is despite the company having often successfully used the argument in the past that it is not the seller or manufacturer, and therefore cannot take proactive responsibility for the safety of products.

This era of lacking accountability appears to be coming to an end. If other courts begin adopting the stance taken in Loomis v. Amazon LLC, as seems likely, this may extend to other e-commerce platforms as well. Courts may hold several parties along the distribution chain strictly liable for negligence in injuries caused by defective products.

This has the potential to upend long-existing e-commerce norms and ways of doing business. It also has serious ramifications for victims of injuries sustained by products purchased on online platforms. They are being made increasingly aware of their right to seek compensation and hold companies like Amazon liable.  

Berg Injury, Product Liability Attorneys

The product liability attorneys at Berg Injury Lawyers believe that it’s not your responsibility to pay for the negligence of manufacturers, sellers, or service providers such as Amazon.

The products we all use daily are supposed to make our lives easier, not harder. When products are imperfectly or poorly designed and have not been submitted to safety checks by all the entities responsible in the supply chain, it can lead to you or a family member suffering a severe injury. This can lead to even more trauma if you are faced with medical bills you cannot pay. 

We’ve been working with San Francisco product liability law cases since 1981 and will fight to ensure you obtain the compensation you’re entitled to. If you have been the victim of injuries caused by a defective product purchased on an online platform, schedule a free consultation with us today to learn how we can help you. Contact us today.