Why Is It So Hard to Sue Amazon for Defective Products?
The internet has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. The ability to get to know a stranger from the other side of the world morphed into the ability to have products made all over the world regularly land on your doorstep. With the quick click of a button you can also have unpredictable dangers delivered straight to your home or office.
After starting as an online bookseller in 1995, Amazon has become the world’s largest online retailer in 25 years. They are showing no sign of slowing down as they continue to branch out into other related industries. One thing is certain; while Amazon’s aspirations become more complicated, its business model remains fairly simple, which helps protect it from product liability lawsuits.
Does Amazon sell defective items?
Every retailer has the potential to sell a defective item. The broader your product offerings the higher the risk will be that products that can cause personal injury or property damage will slip into the hands of consumers. When it has been determined that something is wrong with a product, companies tend to issue recalls. With Amazon selling over 12 million products, there’s a lot of room for injury to occur.
Amazon’s website mentions a mini safety checklist they follow in order to protect their revenue stream. Let us face it, without buyers who feel some level of protection is provided, they are not making a dime. The company claims to:
- Monitor products sold on their website for safety concerns
- Reserve the right to remove unsafe products from their platform
- Reach out to sellers and manufacturers for additional information
- Place relevant warnings on the product listing
- Report product safety concerns to appropriate government agencies to facilitate recalls
That said, there are only two product recalls listed out of 12 million offerings on their website. That is a tad difficult to believe when according to a Washington Post article in August 2019, a consumer protection regulator voiced concerns about Amazon’s potentially deceptive practices of “selling thousands of products without any warnings despite federal agencies deeming those goods to be unsafe, deceptively labeled or banning them altogether.”
Regardless of all of these alleged safety protocols in place, it would seem that Amazon is squarely in the center of putting hazardous items into our homes so why do customers have such a tough time suing them for liability when a product harms them?
Can Amazon be sued for defective products they sell?
This is a tricky question because liability may depend upon how products are being sold. Amazon sells its own products in addition to products from third-parties. Third parties have two options for getting their products onto the Amazon platform. They can take the “do it yourself” approach where they are in full control of their inventory and shipping, or they can send their products to Amazon, which will take over the packaging, labeling, and shipping responsibilities on top of advertising.
If Amazon takes physical control of a third-party seller’s products, to include storage, packing and shipping, they become a more direct link in the stream of commerce placing items into the hands of customers. When a third-party seller handles everything in-house, Amazon’s role is limited to just providing a platform for advertisement and the transfer of money.
Because Amazon doesn’t purchase products from third-party sellers to resell under the Amazon label, third-party transactions tend to muddle the definition of “seller” for product liability purposes. In extremely simplified terms, Amazon is almost reduced to nothing more than a delivery service in those cases so complaints filed against them would likely only relate to delivery issues. That is a far cry from taking blame for an exploding vape pen causing burn injuries or a faulty ladder leading to a wrongful death.
Until this area of law changes to hold Amazon accountable for placing defective products into the stream of commerce, winning product liability lawsuits in their true status as the retailer will be more difficult, but not impossible. Recently, a “A California state appellate court followed its federal predecessor in finding Amazon should face product liability claims for defective goods sold on its website by third-party vendors.” Fourth District of California Judge Patricia Guerrero, in a 47 page order, “found Amazon should be held liable for defective products offered on its website by third-party sellers” because regardless of the terms it uses to describe itself, Amazon is “pivotal in bringing the product here to the consumer.”
Just because you purchase a harmful product from a company that seemingly appears to have skirted liability does not mean they get a free pass. Powerful companies that willingly sell dangerous products deserve to be held accountable.
If you or a loved one has injured by a dangerous product, our knowledgeable Los Angeles product liability attorneys at McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP will thoroughly investigate your claim and provide you with legal options to give you the best avenue to hold the right company accountable. To schedule your free case evaluation in our office with a member of our stellar legal team, call 310-474-1582, or reach out to us through our contact page to tell us your story.
For more than three decades, McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP has built a reputation as one of California’s leading law firms. Founded by a family of attorneys spanning three generations, John McNicholas and sons, Patrick and Matthew, have tried hundreds of cases to jury verdict on behalf of clients. Learn More about McNicholas & McNicholas