Retailers, including giant e-commerce companies like Amazon, face greater exposure in product liability suits as their roles evolve and multiply.

Traditional defenses may be less effective as they become more involved in making representations about the products they sell and exercise more oversight of the manufacturing and distribution process, attorneys say.

Retailer roles have been changing for a long time, Cheryl Possenti of Goldberg Segalla in Buffalo, N.Y., told Bloomberg BNA. Possenti represents companies in litigation and also regulatory compliance.

They generally are in a less protected legal position than they used to be, particularly if they make representations or...