Amazon can now be held liable for defective items sold through its Marketplace platform. Thursday, the California Fourth District Court of Appeals overturned a trial court decision from 2019 involving a woman, Angela Bolger, who claimed to have received third-degree burns from a laptop battery sold through Amazon.

Amazon has long avoided consequences for defective items sold by third parties through its Marketplace, arguing that it is merely an intermediary for these transactions. However, the appeals court ruled against these assertions, arguing that Amazon is “pivotal” to the process of selling any product through their platform and should be liable for any damages they cause.

“Whatever term we use to describe Amazon’s role, be it ‘retailer,’ ‘distributor,’ or merely ‘facilitator,’ it was pivotal in bringing the product here to the consumer,” the court’s ruling read.  “... We therefore reverse the trial court’s judgment in favor of Amazon.”

Bolger’s lawsuit came about after she purchased a replacement laptop battery from a Marketplace vendor listed as “E-Life,” a fake name employed Lenoge Technology. In her suit, Bolger stated that the item arrived in Amazon-branded packaging and that she received no warning about any safety issues before its arrival. Several months after receiving the battery, Bolger said that it exploded.

“As a factual and legal matter, Amazon placed itself between Lenoge and Bolger in the chain of distribution of the product at issue here,” the ruling argued. “Amazon accepted possession of the product from Lenoge, stored it in an Amazon warehouse, attracted Bolger to the Amazon website, provided her with a product listing for Lenoge’s product, received her payment for the product, and shipped the product in Amazon packaging to her.”

Amazon is currently facing a number of other legal battles involving defective third-party sales, including one in which the item was allegedly listed as an “Amazon’s Choice” product. With this appeal now in effect, these challenges could begin to make even more trouble for the tech giant.

Amazon is launching a smart cart that will allow grocery shoppers to skip the checkout queue Amazon is launching a smart cart that will allow grocery shoppers to skip the checkout queue Photo: AFP / DENIS CHARLET