In the first decision of its kind, a California appellate court has held that Amazon may be subject to liability for a personal injury caused by a third-party product sold through its site. Angela Bolger purchased a replacement laptop computer battery on Amazon and was burned when the battery later exploded. She sued Amazon.ComLLC and the seller of the battery, Lenoge Technology Ltd.
Amazon successfully moved to dismiss the lawsuit at the trial court level, arguing that it was simply an “online marketplace” and not the seller of the product. On appeal, Bolger argued that Amazon should be strictly liable for defective third-party products offered on its site. The court of appeals agreed, finding that Amazon was “pivotal” in bringing the product to Bolger through actions, including:
- Taking possession of the product from Lenoge and storing it in an Amazon warehouse;
- Attracting Bolger to the site, providing her with a product listing, accepting her payment and shipping the product to her in Amazon packaging and
- Setting the terms of its relationship with Lenoge, requiring that Lenoge’s communications between consumers like Bolger take place through Amazon and demanding indemnification and fees from Lenoge on each purchase.