Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Amazon Disputes California Appeals Court Decision they are Liable for Faulty Products Sold on their Website

200,000 brands have signed up to fight fakes and dangerous products on Amazon, yet many remain, are ignored, or easily relisted

October 6, 2020, Los Angeles, CA – Amazon is fighting back against a landmark California Appeals Court decision that held the e-commerce giant strictly liable for dangerous products sold on its website. Amazon appealed to the CA Supreme Court arguing that the court took an "unprecedented leap" when it found that Amazon was not shielded from liability for dangerous products that injure or kill consumers.

The decision parallels the same liability that exists for manufacturers, distributors, and brick and mortar retailers like Walmart, Home Depot, and Target. They are not afforded any protection and immunity, and retail consumers almost always have some legal recourse in the event of an injury.

Amazon has a compelling benefit to fight the decision, and no incentive to clean up its website and business practices; they make too much money. Indifferent to the injuries and damage they cause, Amazon paid no federal income tax on $11.2 billion in profit in 2018 and a 1.2% tax rate on $13.3 billion profit in 2019.

If Amazon were genuinely concerned about consumer safety, it would strive to keep hazardous, fraudulent, fake, and potentially deadly items off its website. Instead, 200,000 brands have signed up to fight fakes and dangerous products on Amazon, yet many remain, are ignored, or easily relisted. Three United States Senators are demanding Amazon recall its hazardous "Amazon Basics" private-labeled products after an investigation revealed the products melted, burst into flames, or exploded.

Daily, nearly 90,000 Americans are being assaulted in one form or another through small parcel mail with counterfeit and fraudulent products, guns, documents, police badges, drugs, and illegal narcotics from unscrupulous Made-in-China exporters.

Unfortunately, Congress is conspicuously slow to embrace consumer safety and make the policy decisions necessary to expand liability beyond the stone-age laws applied to the highly competitive e-commerce marketplaces. Websites like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Wish, and Alibaba flood the market with an inexhaustible supply of dangerous, fraudulent, counterfeit, and replica goods. Consumers are on their own to sort out a dizzying presentation of fraud, scams, bad actors, and criminals exploiting e-commerce consumers while the websites dodge liability and profit immensely.

The case at issue in the appeal involved a replacement laptop battery purchased on Amazon by plaintiff Angela Bolger. The battery exploded, and Bolger suffered severe third-degree burns to her arms, legs, and feet, and was hospitalized for two weeks. The battery was delivered to Bolger from Amazon's "Fulfilled By Amazon" (FBA) logistical service, in an Amazon box, sealed by Amazon shipping tape. Amazon charged Bolger's credit card for the $12.30 purchase price and took a total fee for the transaction of $4.87, or approximately 40 percent of the purchase price. Bolger believed Amazon sold her the battery. The appeals court ruled in favor of Bolger.

One of Bolger's attorneys, Jeremy Robinson, with Casey, Gerry, Schenk, Francavilla, Blatt & Penfield LLP, in San Diego, said: "It is impossible to overstate the magnitude of this ruling. Consumers across the nation will feel the impact of this."

Amazon currently faces another hazardous battery case, a federal class-action lawsuit as the direct seller of tens-of-thousands of fraudulent and dangerous Li-ion batteries with an explosion and fire risk. Despite the lawsuit, Amazon continues to sell the items while also enabling and facilitating third-party sales.

The U.S. Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit is also considering Amazon liability issues under Texas law, and the Third Circuit sent a product liability question involving the online company to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The Ohio Supreme Court is also set to decide Amazon's liability in that state -- the issue involves its role as a supplier.


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