Judge allows case against online retailer to progress

It can be convenient for residents of Kentucky to purchase goods from third-party retailers that list products through large online retail sites such as Amazon. However, it can also be frustrating to try to receive compensation if an injury occurs because of a defective product. In the past, Amazon has claimed that it is not liable for injuries from products sold by third-party vendors. However, a recent court decision calls that claim into question.

The issue first arose in 2015 when a woman from Pennsylvania was walking her 70-pound dog using a retractable leash attached to a collar that she had purchased from a third-party seller through Amazon’s platform. According to reports, the ring of the collar suddenly broke and caused the leash to snap backward. It struck the woman’s left eye with enough force to permanently damage her vision in that eye.

The woman filed a product liability suit against both the third-party vendor and Amazon. The latter cited the 1996 Communications Decency Act in claiming that it was not liable for content posted on its site by third parties. According to the woman’s attorney, attempts to locate representatives of the third-party seller were ultimately unsuccessful.

The product liability suit went to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where the panel voted two to one to reinstate the case approximately two weeks ago. The rationale is that Amazon involves itself directly in transactions between its users and third-party sellers. Therefore, according to the panel, it cannot claim that its function is purely editorial.

The decision has far-reaching implications not only for Amazon but for similar online retailers such as Apple and Google. The way that product liability laws apply to specific cases can change rapidly and without warning. Therefore, those who feel they may have a claim may wish to consider hiring an attorney.