As more people turn to online purchasing for their shopping needs, consumers are finding it harder to determine which company is responsible for injuries caused by defective or malfunctioning products. Amazon, the second largest retailer in the world, like many online shopping sites, often uses third-party merchants to provide the actual goods. This can result in complex liability issues when a consumer is injured by a damaged or defective product. A recent Pennsylvania case filed against Amazon highlights this evolving liability issue in consumer protection law.
Potential Liability for Amazon
An Amazon purchaser recently filed a strict product liability lawsuit in Pennsylvania federal court against the online shopping giant alleging a dog leash she purchased from the site broke during use, recoiling back to hit the purchaser’s face and causing permanent blindness in her left eye. The U.S. district court found the third-party merchant, and not Amazon, was the strictly liable seller.
During appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the lower court’s finding to find Amazon was a “seller” for purposes of strict product liability. The Third Circuit held Amazon was strictly liable for the damages caused by the defective dog leash as the only member of the marketing chain amenable to the American legal process. The plaintiff was unable to locate a representative of the third-party seller listed on the Amazon site or to seek damages directly from that merchant.
Other federal courts in similar cases have held Amazon was not the seller and could not be held liable under state product liability law. Given these contrary legal opinions, Amazon is expected to appeal the Third Circuit’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Consumer Safety as a Priority
The Third Circuit’s opinion highlights the Court’s concern for consumer safety by criticizing Amazon’s business model which “fails to prioritize consumer safety.” By imposing strict liability on Amazon, the only party the consumer could identify during the sales process, the Court hoped to provide incentives for businesses dealing with third-party merchants to take consumer safety more seriously. In Amazon’s case, the Third Circuit reasoned the online company exerts such substantial control over its third-party merchants that it was in the best position to prevent the introduction of defective products into the marketplace. As stated in the Third Circuit opinion, “Amazon is fully capable, in its sole discretion, of removing unsafe products from its website. Imposing strict liability upon Amazon would be an incentive to do so.”
Commercial Litigation Claims
Individuals who suffer physical injuries or financial losses due to fraud or negligence can hold businesses responsible by filing civil lawsuits for damages. Consumers must prove they suffered a loss resulting from the unlawful action of the business. Understanding the complexities of filing a consumer fraud claim without the assistance of experienced counsel can be difficult. Individuals who believe their consumer rights have been violated should consult with an experienced Philadelphia consumer protection lawyer to protect their legal rights.
Philadelphia Consumer Protection Lawyers at Harty Law Group Handle Unlawful Business Practices Claims
If your consumer rights have been violated as a result of an unlawful business practice, the experienced Philadelphia consumer protection lawyers at Harty Law Group will work aggressively to get you the compensation you deserve. Our offices are conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey to proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule an initial consultation with an experienced Philadelphia consumer protection lawyer today, call us at 267-262-5650 or submit an online inquiry form.