June 11, 2020

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TechNet states AB 3262 reflects an unprecedented expansion of strict liability

By
Katy Murphy
Politico CA

A California bill to hold Amazon and other online marketplaces "strictly liable" for defective products that cause injury cleared the state Assembly today and will now move to the state Senate.

California would be among the first states in the nation to pass such a proposal, if CA AB3262 (19R) by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) becomes law.

"We now have products coming into California that never would have gotten to our markets before, and people are getting hurt," Stone told his colleagues.

In floor speeches, Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) and Jordan Cunningham (R-Templeton) shared statistics and anecdotes about defective products sold on Amazon, including a retractable dog leash that blinded a Pennsylvania woman in one eye, leaving her in legal limbo. No lawmakers spoke against it.

“We have to have fairness and open competition in the marketplace for the free market to work," Cunningham said. Amazon, he said, should be treated "the same way the law currently treats Lowe's and Home Depot and Walmart and Petco."

The bill faces opposition from tech industry trade groups. The Computing Technology Industry Association, Internet Association, and TechNet wrote in a joint letter that the bill "reflects an unprecedented expansion of strict liability and a radical departure from decades of well-established product-liability law in California," according to the latest bill analysis.

California and other states already have product liability laws on the books, but courts have generally found that they don't apply to Amazon.

New amendments to AB 3262 exempt auction and "peer to peer" sites like eBay and Etsy.

"This bill is a big deal," Cunningham said. "Make no mistake about it, it's a big change in law. We'd be the biggest state to do this, but I think the law is moving this way anyway."

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