Shoppers who ended up with a defective dud product sold by some third-party Amazon sellers overnight may finally have recourse: a federal court has become the first to rule that Amazon can be held liable for what is your “market” the seller sells.
The US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, in Philadelphia, has issued an opinion (PDF) that says Amazon qualifies as a “seller” under Pennsylvania state law, at least for purposes of the suit. While Amazon argued that every item sold on its site could be traced to a specific seller, the court said that Amazon “failed to account for the fact that … third-party sellers may communicate with customer only through Amazon,” which “enables third-party sellers to hide themselves from the customer, leaving customers harmed by defective products without direct return.”
Amazon in its most recent quarterly report said that third-party marketplaces account for more than 18% of all the company’s sales, bringing in $11.14 billion in three months. Analysts expect third-party market access to eclipse Amazon’s own first-third sales this year. While the laissez-faire digital arena brought us to the bank for the hosting company, customers for years have faced mounting challenges with recalled products, poison has arrivedcounterfeits, and absolute crap.
The marketplace arranges customers to buy directly from wholesalers, individual resellers, international businesses, or entities that may be perfect scammers. All this can make it difficult for a customer to know where, exactly, to complain if something goes wrong.
The case brought to the 3rd Circuit involved a woman who purchased a dog collar from a third-party Amazon seller in December 2014. A few weeks later, the woman was walking her dog and the collar broke, causing the weed that is removed to regenerate and harm. his left eye, his complete blindness on that side.
The third party vendor, The Furry Gang, basically disappeared. Neither the woman nor Amazon has been able to find a representative for the seller, who has not had an active Amazon account since June 2016, the court filing said.
The injured customer has sued, saying that Amazon should be held responsible for a defective and dangerous product that was sold without even including warnings that could make it safer. The District Court has ruled in favor of Amazon, finding that it does not qualify as a “seller” under Pennsylvania liability law. The customer appealed.
The appeals court reversed the ruling, noting that “Amazon generally does not take precautions to ensure that third-party sellers are in good standing” under the law at the sites they operate and that Amazon has no vetting process to ensure that vendors will cooperate. including legal regulations. The appeals court also sent the case back to the lower court to decide whether the product was defective and what should be done about it.
The case and the judgment make two different legal arguments against Amazon. The first has to do with a direct question: is Amazon responsible as a merchant? But the other is directly related to the digital nature of the industry: section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Section 230 contains a clause that protects online platforms in general from liability from content generated by their users. Them law states that a platform shall not be treated “as a publisher or speaker of any information” provided by another. This aspect is why, for example, it is difficult to collect Twitter on someone’s Tweets.
The original court ruling in Amazon’s favor found the consumer’s lawsuit against Amazon did not fall under section 230, because it sought to hold Amazon liable “as an online publisher of third-party content.”
The majority on appeal found that section 230 barred some, but not all, of the plaintiff’s rights. “Amazon’s involvement in transactions extends beyond mere editorial work,” the court held. So to the extent negligence and strict liability claims “rely on Amazon’s law as an actor in the sales process, they are not barred” under section 230.
However, the plaintiffs said Amazon “failed to provide or edit adequate warnings” about the product. do was editorial work and, therefore, prohibited, the court ruled.
Will it stick?
The Third Circuit ruling is a first for Amazon, which has faced similar suits before. Federal appeals courts ruled twice in the past two months that Amazon was it’s not responsible for defective products sold by third-party sellers.
In one instance, the batteries in a headlamp malfunctioned and started a fire, which caused more than $300,000 in damage to a consumer’s home. The homeowner’s insurer sued Amazon to try to recoup the money it paid out to the homeowner.
The Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled in May that, while Amazon is not immune from lawsuits under section 230, it does not qualify under the law as a “seller” of a defective product and therefore is not legally liable. State of Maryland for sale. defective products.
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in June ruled similarly in a Tennessee case involving an exploding hoverboard.
Courts of appeals often look to cases decided in other circuits to determine precedent and make their own decisions. In all of these cases, the levels at hand deal with state consumer protection, penalties, or liability law in different states, and therefore there is no issue of circuit breaker for strict liability. In other words, if you buy a defective item from a third-party seller on Amazon and it burns your house down, whether Amazon is responsible for the inferno depends on where you live and what the specifics of the buildings are. – the court decided.