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02/20/2020

Report: Court examines Amazon’s third-party liability

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Federal judges will determine if Amazon holds responsibility for damages caused by goods sold on Amazon Marketplace.

According to CNN, the U.S. Third Court of Appeals in Philadelphia is hearing the case “Oberdorf v. Amazon.” The case was originally brought by Heather Oberdorf, who was blinded in one eye in 2015 as a result of what she claims was a faulty dog collar purchased from third-party seller The Furry Gang on Amazon. Neither Oberdorf nor Amazon has been able to locate The Furry Gang.

In 2019, a lower court determined that under Pennsylvania law, Amazon could be legally considered the seller of the faulty product and held liable for any damages it caused. Amazon is appealing the case, saying it provides a marketplace for third-party sellers but does not act as the seller for third-party transactions. Amazon states this policy in its conditions of use for Amazon Marketplace. 

In addition, Amazon argues that it is shielded from liability for third-party sellers by the Communications Decency Act, which prevents online platforms from being considered the publisher of content posted by third parties. If Amazon loses in this ruling, the e-tailer could theoretically continue to appeal the case up to the Supreme Court.  

“The Oberdorf v. Amazon case reflects the growing public demands for a more stringent regulatory regime to police e-commerce platforms to promote the interests of consumers and rights owners,” said Chloe Lee, brand protection team leader at Incopro. “This is also very much aligned with and supports the recent protectionist discourse and policy initiatives in the U.S. A ruling in favor of Oberdorf should drive meaningful changes in the current e-commerce environment, ideally leading to the formation of tangible and enforceable practices aligned with the messages from the Trump Administration and the framework recently established by Department of Homeland Security, which puts forth recommendations aimed against trafficking in counterfeit and pirated goods."

Read the full article here.