Amazon could now be held liable for third-party items sold on its website, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia has ruled.
The multi-billion dollar company has, to date, remained untouched where lawsuits over third-party sellers are concerned, but future suits could see them bear the brunt of the consequences following this latest decision.
According to a report from Reuters, Amazon could be exposed to a series of lawsuits from customers who end up with defective products from sellers who simply use the platform to display their items.
This ruling stems from a lower court taking Amazon’s side in a case where Heather Oberdorf found herself blinded after a retractable dog leash she bought on there recoiled and hit her in the face. The seller of the item, The Furry Gang, was never contacted as all efforts by all involved parties proved futile.
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The appeals court overturned the decision, much to Oberdorf’s relief. Her lawyer, David Wilk stated that it felt “gratifying that the 3rd Circuit agreed with [their] argument and recognized that the existing interpretation of product liability law in Pennsylvania was not addressing the reality, the dominance that Amazon has in the marketplace.”
Amazon sells many of its own products but more than half of what’s sold on its website comes from other sellers. Last year, first-party sales totaled $117 while $160 billion came in from third-party sales.
Given that the website offers the opportunity to sell products to just about anyone – as long as they can meet certain requirements – it’s pretty hard to police everyone and there’s hardly anything that can be done about the sales of defective or even counterfeit items.
The decision will likely welcome multiple lawsuits against Amazon, whose sales from independent businesses are projected to keep on growing.
While this may seem unfair to the company, it makes sense that one is partly responsible for anything they facilitate the sale of.
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