Hundreds of thousands of people order products from Amazon each day across the country. Online shopping has been an exploding trend over the last few decades but has particularly taken off since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, what happens if you order a product through Amazon, and the product ends up causing harm to you or a loved one? Amazon has long said that they are not responsible for injuries caused by defective products sold by third-party companies. Amazon claims that they are just a facilitator of the sale. However, across the country, courts are beginning to reject this argument. Could this affect consumers here in Washington?
Amazon is losing ground in its product liability arguments
In 2016, a San Diego woman bought a laptop battery from a Hong Kong-based company. However, the battery was distributed by Amazon. Not only was the battery distributed by Amazon, but the online retail giant charged the woman’s credit card, shipped the battery from an Amazon-owned warehouse, and the product arrived in Amazon packaging. The injured woman was participating in Amazon’s “fulfilled by Amazon” program in which customers have to work through Amazon for product returns.
A few months after the woman purchased the battery, the product caught fire and caused significant injuries to her hands. She spent two weeks in the hospital and still suffers from her injuries today. In the woman’s original lawsuit against Amazon and others in 2017, a trial judge granted Amazon’s request to dismiss the case against them after they claimed they were not legally liable. However, a decision by the California Court of Appeal’s Fourth Appellate District in San Diego in August 2020 overturned the lower court’s ruling and determined that Amazon can indeed be held liable in this case.
In Washington, our product liability laws are designed to protect consumers in the event they are harmed by faulty products. While the Ruling in San Diego applies directly to California law at this time, we expect that similar cases will be filed in Washington courts. Right now, there is no consensus as to whether or not Amazon should be considered only a neutral middle-man distributor of products or if they should be held legally liable for injuries like the one mentioned above.
One thing is certain – Amazon needs to take better steps to ensure the protection of the consumers that use their service. One way to force the online shopping giant to improve in this area is to attempt to hold them accountable in court when injuries do occur. As the company is now learning, they may not have protection in these cases for much longer.
Our product liability lawyers are ready to help
If you or somebody you care about has been injured by a defective product sold on Amazon, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible. At Russell & Hill, PLLC, we pledge to investigate every aspect of your case and determine the best path forward to secure the compensation you need. This could include:
- Coverage of your medical expenses
- Lost income if you are unable to work
- Any household out-of-pocket expenses you incur
- Pain and suffering damages
- Loss of personal enjoyment images