Whose liable for a defective product you bought on Amazon?

If you’re like most of America, you do a lot of shopping on Amazon. After all, there are few things that you can’t find there — often at a better price than you can purchase locally. The one- and two-day free shipping offers make these consumer goods even more attractive, especially if you don’t relish the idea of actually getting dressed and getting in the car to buy what you want in the stores. When a product isn’t as-described or is just plain bad, Amazon also makes it easy to return them.

What happens, though, when a product is outright dangerous and defective? If you’re injured because of a defective product sold by Amazon, who is responsible for your losses?

That’s a good question. For awhile now, the answer has largely been, “anybody but Amazon.” Now, however, that may be about to change.

Here’s what’s going on: Amazon has long maintained that it’s just an electronic platform that puts third-party sellers in touch with buyers. Similar to eBay or Craigslist, that would make the seller liable for any damages you incur due to a dangerous, defective or malfunctioning product. According to the company, this is unambiguous. It says, “Amazon makes clear in the conditions of use that third-party sellers sell products on the marketplace, and that those sellers, not Amazon, are responsible for the products.”

Except consumers clearly don’t realize that Amazon isn’t the retailer for many of the products it ships — and a lot of the items that they’re getting have led to a slew of injuries. One woman was blinded in her left eye when a defective dog leash snapped. A man was killed when a defective helmet popped off his head in an accident. A hoverboard caught fire and destroyed a home.

Initially, the courts sided with Amazon, but one persistent consumer took her appeal a bit higher. Now, a federal appeals court in Pennsylvania is sending shockwaves through the e-commerce industry because it says that Amazon is the de facto vendor of these items and can be held responsible for defects.

Product liability cases can be exceedingly complex — especially when the pace of technology and developments in commerce have exceeded the existing laws. It’s wise to get experienced assistance with a claim as soon as possible.