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A hoverboard burst into flames. It could change the way Amazon does business

Should Amazon, which is responsible for about half of all online sales, be financially and legally responsible for the security of products offered on the website as well as those sold by third-party sellers?

Amazon affirms that it is not.

Three State Court of Appeal justices in Los Angeles this week said the opposite.

In a reversal of Amazon’s assertion that it is just an intermediary between customers and sellers, the justices said that “we are persuaded that Amazon’s own business practises make it under California’s strict liability doctrine a direct link in the vertical chain of distribution.”

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The bottom line is that Amazon, and, by extension, other online retailers, aren’t just spectators when someone buys an item that is being sold by a third party. It’s a crucial aspect of the purchase.

The company could be held accountable in the event that the product proves to cause harm.

“Amazon will be the main retailer. They’re the ones selling products, “claimed Christopher Dolan, who is a San Francisco lawyer who spearheaded the legal battle against the giants of e-commerce.

Over half of the products sold on Amazon are purchased from third-party sellers, which is a key aspect of Amazon’s dominance in the retail market. In the quarter ending April 2020, this proportion reached a new high of 55%.

Technology and the Internet

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This is the purchase in December 2015 of a children’s toy, which is a hoverboard, by Kisha Loomis, who lives in the city of Oroville, located in Butte County, north of Sacramento.

Remember hoverboards? They were self-balancing devices intended to resemble the hoverboards that fly in “Back to the Future Part II.”

The real-world versions weren’t as exciting as the version Marty McFly rode around on in the fictional California town of Hill Valley. They were equipped with wheels and ran on batteries that contained lithium-ion.

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The problem was that those batteries were known to have a habit of burning up.

This is exactly what happened with the hoverboard purchased by Loomis on Amazon from the Chinese manufacturer for an Xmas gift for her son.

Just a few days after Christmas, Dolan stated that the board “exploded while charging in a bedroom.” He claimed that Loomis was “severely burned” as she attempted to throw the burning toy from her home.

In any event, L.A. firefighters encountered their first explosion-prone hoverboard at the time when Loomis’ device went up. KTLA got footage of the hoverboard caught on fire on a Koreatown sidewalk.

In his pursuit of the legal action on behalf of Loomis, Dolan found that the Chinese manufacturer as well as their U.S. distributor had gone out of business, “leaving only Amazon to be held accountable for the injuries to Ms. Loomis and the damage to her home.”

Amazon won in the initial instance. The L.A. judge agreed with the Seattle company , stating that it was simply acting as an “online advertiser” and not accountable for the products of third parties it sells. The suit ended in the month of March.

The appellate court’s decision this week annuls the previous ruling and holds Amazon responsible for its products it permits third-party sellers to sell through its website.

The justices on appeal cited Amazon’s “substantial ability to influence the manufacturing or distribution process through its ability to require safety certification, indemnification, and insurance before it agrees to list any product.”

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An Amazon spokeswoman who asked to remain anonymous, even being, as you’d expect, a spokeswoman, refused to discuss the recent decision or whether Amazon will appeal before the State Supreme Court.

Product liability experts have told me the decision this week makes it evident that online sellers are only that — merchants who are not able to conceal behind their technology of connecting the world to avoid responsibility in the case of distributing dangerous goods.

“I’d like to say that this shouldn’t even be a debate,” said Alex Harman, Public Citizen’s competition policy advocate.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said that the implications that the court’s decision could have “are potentially substantial for Amazon and other online retailers.”

Rachel Weintraub, legislative director for the Consumer Federation of America, said the ruling was “incredibly important.”

Safety of products has been a topic of discussion recently. I posted a post the other day on how Peloton refuses to recall the treadmill connected to the murder of a young child and the possibility of harm to many others.

The National Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an “urgent warning” concerning this Peloton Tread+ exercise equipment. Peloton rejected the notice as “inaccurate and misleading” and stated that “there is no reason to stop using the Tread+.”


Column Peloton will not recall the treadmill that caused the death of an infant. Why don’t authorities take action?

April 21, 2021

The CPSC’s authority is based, for the most part, on companies’ voluntary recalls of unsafe products. The agency is also prohibited by law from informing consumers of potentially hazardous products without the consent of the company.

The latest Amazon decision sets out an official legal requirement that buyers can seek satisfaction from online sellers for the products they sell, regardless of whether the products originated from elsewhere.

Dolan stated that Amazon is currently notifying its third-party sellers that they’ll need to be properly insured in order to gain access to the company’s massive customer base.

The company will be aware of any information about potentially hazardous products and will be more prompt to stop any sales.

I asked him if he’s concerned about Amazon going before the California Supreme Court.

“I hope they do,” Dolan said. However, I doubt they will. They can read tea leaves. “

tea leaves that suggest that the consumers have scored the big prize.

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