Third-party sellers, the supply chain and product liability

Shopping online has become one of the primary ways many people shop, and you may prefer it to shopping at the traditional “brick and mortar” retail stores in California. If you purchase a defective product that injures you, you should have just as much right to recover damages as if you bought the product at the store down the street from you. At Lange Law Corporation, we often counsel clients on their options in a product liability lawsuit. notes that one of the reasons product liability law holds retailers responsible for the harm the product causes is the difficulty customers may have in following the supply chain and determining fault. If the law holds the retailer responsible for its sale of the product, it offers further protection to the consumer. The retailers have more motivation to ensure product safety, and they are in more of a position to pursue recovery of the damages they have paid from the manufacturer.

When it comes to third-party sellers, though, the law has been less kind to consumers, particularly in regard to Amazon’s role in the supply chain. In 2018, third-party sellers on Amazon were responsible for 58% of the physical gross merchandise sales. Although Amazon does not sell the products directly, it does provide the tools to the third-party sellers to make the process easy to manage, and the company also collects a commission. More than one individual has sued the corporate giant for injuries caused by products from third-party sellers, but courts have ruled in favor of Amazon, stating that the company is not a seller under the law.

Recently, though, two appeals courts determined that by subjecting Amazon to product liability law, they would protect the public from irresponsible third-party sellers that avoided liability. Whether this shift will eventually change the retail giant’s policies for third-party sellers to further protect the public remains to be seen, but at least for now, you may have some recourse if you suffer an injury because of a product you purchased from a third-party seller on the other side of the globe.

More information about product liability is available on our webpage.