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Wed July 3 2019 17:25:54

Ruling Against Amazon Could Ripple across Ecommerce

By: Ina Steiner

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If a customer is harmed by a product purchased from an Amazon seller, could the online marketplace be found responsible? For the first time, a court found Amazon may be liable for potentially defective products sold by third-party merchants.

Reuters covered the case and stated that liability for defective products is generally governed by state law - in this case, a Pennsylvania woman was injured when a retractable dog leash blinded her in one eye.

The ruling from the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is far different from one we reported on in May involving a house fire in Maryland started by an allegedly defective product sold by an Amazon merchant. In that case, a judge for the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said state laws would have to be changed before the courts could rule any differently, but she clearly felt dissatisfied with the outcome.

According to TechCrunch, Amazon has yet to comment on dog leash case and wrote, "it seems likely the company will ultimately appeal the ruling. A lower court will rule on whether the leash that caused Oberdorf's injury was, indeed, defective."

The case could have serious repercussions for online sellers, such as how Amazon deals with third-party merchants and whether sites like eBay and Etsy could similarly be impacted.



Comments (17) | Permalink

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by: sasikat9 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 3 19:17:47 2019

What was she trying to do wear the leash.

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by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Jul 3 23:29:56 2019

Ummm...retractable leash means it bounces back.

Anywho, about the case, I think marketplaces should take some responsibility for what they allow to be sold on their sites. However, I don't think they should be held directly responsible for what happens with another business's products.

I know that sounds a bit contradictory. What I'm saying is that places like Amazon should be more diligent in reviewing product listings posted to their site. If a product has known defects and has been recalled or is otherwise illegal, then it should be removed. If it has known defects, but has not been recalled, then those defects should be made known to customers in the listing. If they're not, then the listing should be removed until it complies with that policy.

So, basically, what I'm saying is that these marketplace sites need to stop putting their greed over customer satisfaction and safety. There will always be someone who's going to try suing big corporations for big money, whether or not it's a frivolous case. So, if they want to protect themselves from any liability, then they need to have a department dedicated to product and listing quality.

In this case, it doesn't sound like the product was defective and I'm surprised that wasn't the first thing required by the court -- for it to be proven as such in order to make a proper ruling on the case. I use retractable dog leashes for my dogs and you do have to be careful when retracting a long portion of the leash. It's a matter of common sense and the proper use that results from it, not product defectiveness.

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Thu Jul 4 11:43:13 2019

Anything can be dangerous if used improperly. If I buy a skillet on Amazon, heat it up on my stove, and then stick my hand on it and get third-degree burns, it's not Amazon's fault I'm an idiot (or trying to film a YouTube video). There has to be some level of accountability on the part of the customer.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Thu Jul 4 11:51:30 2019

I test my product for 1 uninterrupted week before offering it to the public.
15 years, Good so far.......

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by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jul 4 17:22:29 2019

We just have to force chinese manufacturers to be liable if they want yo do busibess here.

The only time a retail store should be liable is if ots due to their negligence...such ss not pulling an item if its known to do these things

Simply selling a product isnt enough to be liable

But..we can't give amazon a pass IF other retail outlets are liable of stuff like this

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by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jul 4 17:27:27 2019

Manufacturer's of the product bear the responsibility for use safety (and all other claims not seller caused) down the entire length of the supply chain.

Unless the product seller is directly employed, or under contract to or other representative affiliation with the manufacturer, or there is a known defect or recall prohibition, the seller should be free from liability for use caused injury.  

Seller should be nevertheless cognizant of any potential hazards, and convey all information pertinent in ther listing.  

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by: maxmad This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jul 4 17:58:29 2019

it's about time these greedy venues take responsibility for the unsafe china products they sell, and profit from,

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This user has validated their user name. by: Lightning

Thu Jul 4 21:43:11 2019

I agree with @Snapped.  But unfortunately, as stated in the article, laws vary from state to state, and some of those could also conflict with Federal laws.  I always hate to see someone, or some entity, held responsible for something that really was not under their control (selling an approved product in a sealed package).  If they are aware of potential problems, another subject entirely.

Be WE, the People, somewhere along the line, have decreed that anything bad that happens to us is ALWAYS someone else's fault.  The lawyers told us so, on TV.

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by: Flying Childers This user has validated their user name.

Thu Jul 4 23:43:17 2019

I wonder how this will affect the case against Etsy where the poor baby choked on a teething necklace and died.  Etsy claims zero responsibility and blames the seller.

The plaintiff mother says she got it as a gift and never agreed to hold Etsy harmless.

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This user has validated their user name. by: NoMoreEbay

Fri Jul 5 12:26:57 2019

There needs to be a complete set of federal laws implemented for eCommerce or any business that sells online across state lines.

They should address abuses, injuries, counterfeits, and standards. Amazon and ebay have been raking in billions from 3rd party sellers for years and take absolutely no responsibility or blame for anything. That needs to change.

This crap has been going on unchallenged for over 20 years. It's like the wild west. When is our govt. going to enter the Internet age and worry about something other than lining their dirty pockets with more taxes.

If it's on your site and you make money from it, you should be 100% actionable in a court of law. Don't like it, then don't let 3rd party sellers sell lead based poison and other dangerous and fake products on your site under your company name. Too much work to figure out. Then spend some of your Billions and hire enough people to make it work. Period.

ebay and Amazon wants to be generic and have buyers think they are buying from ebay and Amazon. Fine. Accept the consequences that go along with it.

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by: maxmad This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jul 6 06:54:45 2019

Amazon and ebay, make obscene amounts of money from each sale, they both re-ship items directly from their own warehouses, they advertise on their sites what they want and don't want to be sold, they both act as if they are retailers,

What makes Amazon any different then a brick and mortar store, why would Amazon be exempt from consumer safety, when companies like Walmart or Lowes can be held liable,

Normal companies seek products to fill their shelves with some degree of responsibility, they have purchasing agents, that are responsible for picking safe products,

These venues let you believe they are just providing a service when in fact they go far beyond being just a venue for others, they are in reality a retail outlet, distributing products just like a retailer, and profiting just as much, they need to be held responsible when one of their products hurts someone.


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by: AnotherTime This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Jul 8 00:57:44 2019

Amazon is a platform for selling.
Products are sold individual companies.
The company should be responsible.

It would be like suing a mall for a product you purchased from a store that is located within the mall.  

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jul 8 06:30:58 2019

@purpleiris:  I sell on another site and cannot sell food (I can on Amazon) and anything with chemicals in it, llike beauty products (I can on Amazon).  If AMZ loses the case, a lot more gating of products will occur.  I can see them gating dog leash's, and other items.

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by: Flying Childers This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jul 8 07:26:19 2019

Some really good comments here and I agree with many of them.  For too many years the tech giants /Masters of the Universe have been allowed to rake in billions of dollars with virtually zero accountability.

Why is it that EBay, Etsy, Amazon, FB, etc. can get away with stuff online that is illegal in the real world?  How about all the “theft of services” issues where they simply steal our money?

There are many thousands of well paid Government workers and consumer protection agencies who refuse to do their jobs and protect us.

I am sick and tired of being treated like a second class citizen in my own Country.  I work my butt off to try and make a living and pay a big chunk of my income to TAXES, yet somehow there is no one who can help us.

The problem is that people like us, the Little Guys and Gals, have NO representation in Congress. Amazon and EBay probably have a crew of lobbyists who can buy off the Congress Critters.

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Jul 8 08:09:37 2019

"Be WE, the People, somewhere along the line, have decreed that anything bad that happens to us is ALWAYS someone else's fault.  The lawyers told us so, on TV."

I get so tired of this mentality as well. Someone who is using a product without even the minimal common sense and it hurts them, should not find this as a way to score big off of any company from Amazon to McDonald's to my store. I sell sewing patterns which means to use them, they have to cut them apart with scissors/rotary cutter. If they cut themselves or dear little Johnny decided to try out mom's scissors, why should I be liable if they get hurt? I was looking in some sewing magazines and they mentioned making up a sewing kit for a child. To keep things safe they recommended having the child use those dull as dishwater safety scissors from kindergarten so their is no chance for them to hurt themselves. I learned to sew with real scissors as how else do you learn without the proper equipment?

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by: val2525 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jul 8 18:53:32 2019

When a buyer buys on AMZ, they don't know who they are buying from. AMZ deliberately erases that line.  When a buyer buys on the other marketplaces, it is clearer who they are buying from - third party sellers. I can see how AMZ would be considered liable for damages.  

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by: Mike Wilsonn This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Jul 12 00:40:22 2019

Amazon has faced similar suits before also. Federal appeals courts ruled twice in just the past 2 months that Amazon was not accountable for faulty products which are sold by a third-party vendor on their site.



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