Amazon customers can sue for missing warnings

SAN FRANCISCO – The California Supreme Court on Wednesday left intact a ruling that allows customers to sue for failing to warn shoppers that some products it sells may contain hazardous substances like mercury.

The court denied a request by Amazon attorneys to review a lower court ruling that Amazon violated the state’s Proposition 65, which requires companies to warn consumers about products they make or sell that contain chemicals known to that they cause cancer, reproductive harm or birth defects.

That case concerned a lawsuit filed in Alameda County alleging that the online retail giant knowingly allowed the sale of skin lightening creams on its website for years despite being aware of concerns about the levels of toxic mercury in such creams.

Mercury can harm pregnant women and their fetuses. The lawsuit alleged that some of the products, manufactured by third parties but sold on Amazon, contained levels of mercury thousands of times the US federal legal limit.


Amazon did not immediately comment on the Supreme Court’s lawsuit, allowing the previous court ruling to be used as precedent in state courts.

However, California has such a large market share that any actions Amazon takes to comply with Proposition 65 could have a much larger impact on consumers, said Rachel Doughty, attorney for one plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“This could appear as if products containing carcinogens or reproductive toxicants are being removed from Amazon’s website, or Amazon is taking action to ensure a warning is provided … so consumers can take action to reduce exposure to such.” avoiding chemicals,” Doughty said in an email.

The lawsuit was dismissed in 2019 by a judge, who found that Amazon is protected by a section of the Federal Communications Decency Act that protects websites from liability for content posted by other parties.

In March, however, a state appeals court said Amazon not only acts as a place for retailers to list their available goods, but actively stocks, sells, and ships them.


A pharmacy selling the same creams would have to issue Proposition 65 warnings, the ruling said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Amazon customers can sue for missing warnings

Sarah Y. Kim

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