Appeals court rules that Amazon is liable for third-party goods

midian182

TechSpot Editor
Staff member

In addition to selling its own items, nearly half the goods sold on Amazon come from third-party vendors on its marketplace. As noted by Reuters, vendors can store their products in Amazon’s warehouses or ship them directly to customers. The company takes a cut of the sales, and it earned about $11 billion in revenue from services provided to third-party sellers during the last quarter.

Back in 2014, Pennsylvania resident Heather Oberdorf purchased a dog collar on Amazon from a third-party vendor called The Furry Gang. The collar broke a year later when she was walking her dog, and the retractable leash flew back and hit her in the face, breaking her glasses and leaving her permanently blind in one eye.

Nobody from The Furry Gang could be contacted, and Oberdorf sued Amazon in 2016 for negligence, breach of warranty, and misrepresentation. A district court ruled that Amazon was not liable because it wasn’t a seller, and was protected from liability by the Communications Decency Act.

Oberdorf appealed the decision, and the appeals court has just found that Amazon was liable, partly because it “enables third-party vendors to conceal themselves from the customer, leaving customers injured by defective products with no direct recourse to the third-party vendor.”

Oberdorf’s lawyer said: “It’s gratifying that the 3rd Circuit agreed with our 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, which is expected to appeal the ruling, has not commented on the case.

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lipe123

TS Evangelist
Seems kinda odd, so if you buy something at walmart that was manufactured by another company (almost everything) you can sue walmart? I don't think so - pretty sure the warranty and liability lies with the manufacturer.

So really all Amazon needs to do is not hide the original manufacturer from buyers.
 
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Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
Seems kinda odd, so if you buy something at walmart that was manufactured by another company (almost everything) you can sue walmart? I don't think so - pretty sure the warranty and liability lies with the manufacturer.
So really all Amazon needs to do is not hide the original manufacturer from buyers.
It's about time. Far too many things on Amazon are 3rd party, not covered by the PRIME guarantee. In as much as they charge for PRIME they should be held liable as they are responsive for verifying and insuring the legitimacy of every company they represent. When Walmart sells you a product their responsibility begins with having to accept a return (unless specifically identified as non-returnable) for refund or exchange. If they refuse they risk the wrath of the local and state governments that can revoke their business licenses for that area, thus closing the store or stores within that jurisdiction.
 

lipe123

TS Evangelist
It's about time. Far too many things on Amazon are 3rd party, not covered by the PRIME guarantee. In as much as they charge for PRIME they should be held liable as they are responsive for verifying and insuring the legitimacy of every company they represent. When Walmart sells you a product their responsibility begins with having to accept a return (unless specifically identified as non-returnable) for refund or exchange. If they refuse they risk the wrath of the local and state governments that can revoke their business licenses for that area, thus closing the store or stores within that jurisdiction.
I mean I get it, but it makes no sense. The result of this will only have one logical outcome.
Amazon will cancel 3rd party sellers, how can they take responsibility for someone else's' stuff? Especially like the article mentioned when someone went blind from a dog leash - that's a very expensive settlement.
At the same time I feel like that was a stupid case to begin with. The incident happened 1 year after purchase, did the dog chew on the leash or collar to weaken it? Was it properly maintained and inspected for wear? How could it possibly spring back with enough force to break someones glasses? Was the dog pulling like crazy on a regular collar instead of using a pinch collar?
The whole thing sounds too much like a "hot mcdonald's coffee" case

I've learned to just never order anything from 3rd party sellers since I got bitten by terrible shipping delays and poor quality items in the past as well.
 
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jonny888

TS Booster
It's about time. Far too many things on Amazon are 3rd party, not covered by the PRIME guarantee. In as much as they charge for PRIME they should be held liable as they are responsive for verifying and insuring the legitimacy of every company they represent. When Walmart sells you a product their responsibility begins with having to accept a return (unless specifically identified as non-returnable) for refund or exchange. If they refuse they risk the wrath of the local and state governments that can revoke their business licenses for that area, thus closing the store or stores within that jurisdiction.
I mean I get it, but it makes no sense. The result of this will only have one logical outcome.
Amazon will cancel 3rd party sellers, how can they take responsibility for someone else's' stuff? Especially like the article mentioned when someone went blind from a dog leash - that's a very expensive settlement.
At the same time I feel like that was a stupid case to begin with. The incident happened 1 year after purchase, did the dog chew on the leash or collar to weaken it? Was it properly maintained and inspected for wear? How could it possibly spring back with enough force to break someones glasses? Was the dog pulling like crazy on a regular collar instead of using a pinch collar?
The whole thing sounds too much like a "hot mcdonald's coffee" case

I've learned to just never order anything from 3rd party sellers since I got bitten by terrible shipping delays and poor quality items in the past as well.
It's not that they have to ban 3rd party sellers outright, but it does encourage/force them to be pickier about which parties they allow. In theory that's good for the consumer in terms of quality, though one can only expect that the supply/demand shift would then see at least a small rise in prices. Assuming anything significant about their practices actually changes or whether they just consider it acceptable risk vs profit.
 

mailpup

TS Special Forces
So really all Amazon needs to do is not hide the original manufacturer from buyers.
Not so simple. This reason was only partly the problem so being open about who third party vendors are will not keep Amazon completely off the hook. IMHO, this is likely to lead to some reduction in third party vendors and, therefore, your choices.
 

hk2000

TS Booster
Seems kinda odd, so if you buy something at walmart that was manufactured by another company (almost everything) you can sue walmart? I don't think so - pretty sure the warranty and liability lies with the manufacturer.
So really all Amazon needs to do is not hide the original manufacturer from buyers.
It's about time. Far too many things on Amazon are 3rd party, not covered by the PRIME guarantee. In as much as they charge for PRIME they should be held liable as they are responsive for verifying and insuring the legitimacy of every company they represent. When Walmart sells you a product their responsibility begins with having to accept a return (unless specifically identified as non-returnable) for refund or exchange. If they refuse they risk the wrath of the local and state governments that can revoke their business licenses for that area, thus closing the store or stores within that jurisdiction.
Nonsense. Walmart is expected to accept returns, but they can't be liable for a defective appliance that electrocutes the user when plugged in- that is the manufacturers *** on the line not the seller's.
 
This side of the pond it has always been that way:

1979 Sale of Goods Act
2005 General Product Safety Regulation
2015 Consumer Protection Act

basically as a business if you take the money for the goods and/or service you take the liability for what you have sold including food delivery services

I am more interested to see if eBay will be as keen promoting professional traders and pushing out the ordinary, once in a while, garage clearance seller given they would be considered equally liable
 
Seems kinda odd, so if you buy something at walmart that was manufactured by another company (almost everything) you can sue walmart? I don't think so - pretty sure the warranty and liability lies with the manufacturer.
So really all Amazon needs to do is not hide the original manufacturer from buyers.
It's about time. Far too many things on Amazon are 3rd party, not covered by the PRIME guarantee. In as much as they charge for PRIME they should be held liable as they are responsive for verifying and insuring the legitimacy of every company they represent. When Walmart sells you a product their responsibility begins with having to accept a return (unless specifically identified as non-returnable) for refund or exchange. If they refuse they risk the wrath of the local and state governments that can revoke their business licenses for that area, thus closing the store or stores within that jurisdiction.
Nonsense. Walmart is expected to accept returns, but they can't be liable for a defective appliance that electrocutes the user when plugged in- that is the manufacturers *** on the line not the seller's.
What country are you in?

Because in the United States of America, the manufacturer, retailer, and supply chain can all be liable and sued for product liability.

A product may become defective at any stage and from multiple sources (eg. Leave the manufacturer fine but gets damaged by the retailer, or the manufacturer creates a dangerous product based on retailer specifications, or the manufacturer basically operate under the retailer, etc).

Furthermore, American courts have long held that in situations where the victim plaintiff doesn't know which exact party is liable, the plaintiff can sue them all and let the companies figure out liability and proportion liability among themselves.
 

Eddie777

TS Rookie
It's obvious this woman is fueled by greed and financial gain with the lure of a bumper payout. Surely it would be easier just to ensure when using Amazon you only buy from Amazon thereby safeguarding yourself.
 

Badvok

TS Maniac
It's obvious this woman is fueled by greed and financial gain with the lure of a bumper payout.
Are you serious? She lost her eyesight! Of course it would be up to a court to decide if there is any responsibility to be assigned to any of the manufacturers/retailers involved or whether it was just a tragic accident.
 

rub900

TS Addict
So really all Amazon needs to do is not hide the original manufacturer from buyers.
Not so simple. This reason was only partly the problem so being open about who third party vendors are will not keep Amazon completely off the hook. IMHO, this is likely to lead to some reduction in third party vendors and, therefore, your choices.
Awwww sad Amazon sucks. They need to be put out of business.
 

Joshua Franklin

TS Rookie
It makes me wonder... I purchased a new Vizio TV from Amazon a couple of years ago and it died within 6-mo of normal use. I contacted Vizio about repair/replacement under warranty, but was denied because the TV wasn't actually sold by Amazon, rather a third party in the marketplace. The seller purchased the TV from "Sams Club," where the serial number was based and then resold it on Amazon. Since the serial number wasn't associated with Amazon, Vizio gave me the middle finger. I went back to Amazon about the issue, who also promptly gave me the middle finger. Thus I was stuck with a broken TV.
 

Evernessince

TS Evangelist
It makes me wonder... I purchased a new Vizio TV from Amazon a couple of years ago and it died within 6-mo of normal use. I contacted Vizio about repair/replacement under warranty, but was denied because the TV wasn't actually sold by Amazon, rather a third party in the marketplace. The seller purchased the TV from "Sams Club," where the serial number was based and then resold it on Amazon. Since the serial number wasn't associated with Amazon, Vizio gave me the middle finger. I went back to Amazon about the issue, who also promptly gave me the middle finger. Thus I was stuck with a broken TV.
That issue and this one are separate. A lot of companies require you to purchase from "Authorized retailers" in order to qualify for warranty. It's just another way companies dodge actually backing up their products. Brand new products should come with the stated warranty no matter who they are purchased from and it's ridiculous that companies are allowed to get away with this.
 

toooooot

TS Evangelist
"the retractable leash flew back and hit her in the face, breaking her glasses and leaving her permanently blind in one eye"

Unlucky Brian's real life cousin
 

Wizwill

TS Booster
As a homeowner, if I employ contractors to work on my home, I require them to carry insurance to protect myself against injury claim from one of their workers. If, however, that insurance does not pay, the liability ultimately defaults to me as the Homeowner. What is the difference with Amazon?

By carrying and selling product for third-party manufacturers and taking a cut of the profits, aren't they also accepting a share of the liability? about the only thing to be litigated would be what percentage of the liability they accept for taking 30% of profits.

I personally believe that they should also be held liable for misrepresentations on their online advertising requiring someone to pay shipping waste time and energy etc. to resolve the issue. I wonder what percentage of their gross income comes from the float while they hold people's money waiting to resolve liability and product misinterpretation issues?
 
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poohbear

TS Evangelist
It's about time. Far too many things on Amazon are 3rd party, not covered by the PRIME guarantee. In as much as they charge for PRIME they should be held liable as they are responsive for verifying and insuring the legitimacy of every company they represent. When Walmart sells you a product their responsibility begins with having to accept a return (unless specifically identified as non-returnable) for refund or exchange. If they refuse they risk the wrath of the local and state governments that can revoke their business licenses for that area, thus closing the store or stores within that jurisdiction.
I mean I get it, but it makes no sense. The result of this will only have one logical outcome.
Amazon will cancel 3rd party sellers, how can they take responsibility for someone else's' stuff? Especially like the article mentioned when someone went blind from a dog leash - that's a very expensive settlement.
At the same time I feel like that was a stupid case to begin with. The incident happened 1 year after purchase, did the dog chew on the leash or collar to weaken it? Was it properly maintained and inspected for wear? How could it possibly spring back with enough force to break someones glasses? Was the dog pulling like crazy on a regular collar instead of using a pinch collar?
The whole thing sounds too much like a "hot mcdonald's coffee" case

I've learned to just never order anything from 3rd party sellers since I got bitten by terrible shipping delays and poor quality items in the past as well.
If we can put people on the moon, im pretty sure we can figure out how to make a seller responsible for the things that are sold in his store. Have every seller sign an agreement saying they can't just disappear after selling something and they're liable for the product during its warranty period.

Now, the question is whether this particular product was past its warranty period (which is usually one year).
 

J Oelschl

TS Rookie
It's about time. Far too many things on Amazon are 3rd party, not covered by the PRIME guarantee. In as much as they charge for PRIME they should be held liable as they are responsive for verifying and insuring the legitimacy of every company they represent. When Walmart sells you a product their responsibility begins with having to accept a return (unless specifically identified as non-returnable) for refund or exchange. If they refuse they risk the wrath of the local and state governments that can revoke their business licenses for that area, thus closing the store or stores within that jurisdiction.
I mean I get it, but it makes no sense. The result of this will only have one logical outcome.
Amazon will cancel 3rd party sellers, how can they take responsibility for someone else's' stuff? Especially like the article mentioned when someone went blind from a dog leash - that's a very expensive settlement.
At the same time I feel like that was a stupid case to begin with. The incident happened 1 year after purchase, did the dog chew on the leash or collar to weaken it? Was it properly maintained and inspected for wear? How could it possibly spring back with enough force to break someones glasses? Was the dog pulling like crazy on a regular collar instead of using a pinch collar?
The whole thing sounds too much like a "hot mcdonald's coffee" case

I've learned to just never order anything from 3rd party sellers since I got bitten by terrible shipping delays and poor quality items in the past as well.
It's about time. Far too many things on Amazon are 3rd party, not covered by the PRIME guarantee. In as much as they charge for PRIME they should be held liable as they are responsive for verifying and insuring the legitimacy of every company they represent. When Walmart sells you a product their responsibility begins with having to accept a return (unless specifically identified as non-returnable) for refund or exchange. If they refuse they risk the wrath of the local and state governments that can revoke their business licenses for that area, thus closing the store or stores within that jurisdiction.
I mean I get it, but it makes no sense. The result of this will only have one logical outcome.
Amazon will cancel 3rd party sellers, how can they take responsibility for someone else's' stuff? Especially like the article mentioned when someone went blind from a dog leash - that's a very expensive settlement.
At the same time I feel like that was a stupid case to begin with. The incident happened 1 year after purchase, did the dog chew on the leash or collar to weaken it? Was it properly maintained and inspected for wear? How could it possibly spring back with enough force to break someones glasses? Was the dog pulling like crazy on a regular collar instead of using a pinch collar?
The whole thing sounds too much like a "hot mcdonald's coffee" case

I've learned to just never order anything from 3rd party sellers since I got bitten by terrible shipping delays and poor quality items in the past as well.
It can absolutely happen. It happened to me. I was using a high quality FlexiGrip german one. What happens is that the metal swivel hook that you attach to the dogs collar detaches from the metal piece that is connected to the nylon cord. When it breaks, it catapults back as the internal spring is pretty strong. It happens very quickly and it becomes a whip. The metal piece that was still attached hit my face just below my eye. I had a huge welt for quite some time. I consider myself very lucky it didnt hit my eye because I probably would have lost it. After that happened I stopped using the retractable leashes. I would not believe it had it not happened to me.
 

toooooot

TS Evangelist
There was/is a huge problem with counterfeit goods being sold on amazon. If amazon does nothing and simply collects prime fee, who will pay for cheap fakes? Buyers of course.

I think amazon should give a strong message, counterfeits do not belong on amazon. And then working with the government, scorch the weeds from their land
 

amstech

IT Overlord
Seems kinda odd, so if you buy something at walmart that was manufactured by another company (almost everything) you can sue walmart? I don't think so - .
This is not a usable metaphor and does not apply to Amazon using 3rd parties to sell things.
Those 3rd parties are fully dressed companies selling products just like Amazon and are not manufacturing anything, and even if they did, they are still using Amazon's footprint to make the sale.

A metaphor that does apply is this:
You can use eBay to buy from Newegg for example.
But if that product is defective, you will deal with eBay AND the seller (in this case Newegg), not the party liable for manufacturing the product. That is done with warranty claims.
 

tbt10f

TS Rookie
Why didn't she sue the manufacturer of the leash for not having some sort of centrifugal braking system or some other way to keep it from retracting that fast? I thought everyone knew that retractable leashes were a bad idea?