At times, a consumer will purchase a product that functions in a manner not intended by either the manufacturer or the consumer. Malfunctions can range from a simple failure to one that causes economic loss, property damage, and personal injury. The legal recourse of the party purchasing the product depends on the scope of the harm as well as the type of warranty involved. The type of warranty that will apply depends on the role of the people involved in the conveyance of the goods.
Breach of Warranty
Two types of warranty exist; express and implied.
An express warranty is as the name describes, one that uses language to advise the customer of guarantees, if any, offered by the manufacturer regarding the performance of the product. If a product fails to perform according to standards described in an express warranty, any person rightfully owning and using the product will have a cause of action, which might involve replacement or repair. Any person involved in the manufacture and chain of marketing will have liability for the product failure.
For example, party A sells a gold-colored chain guaranteed in writing never to turn green for the life of the chain. Party A gives the chain as a gift to Defendant who wears the chain for a period of time after which, the chain turns green. Here, Defendant will have a claim against party A for breach of express warranty.
An implied warranty of merchantability is a rule that states that a product must be fit for its intended use. The “intended use” of a product might be broadened to include other, reasonable and foreseeable ways in which a product is utilized by a consumer. For example, a chair is made for accommodating a sitting person, but might reasonably be used by a person to stand on while replacing a light bulb. If a failure arises from regular use or such a reasonable and foreseeable use, it will breach the implied warranty of merchantability.
Limits on implied warranties include privity (person experiencing the failure must be the purchaser and liable parties will be only the merchant or manufacturer). Disclaimers can limit this type of claim.
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Types of Harm Caused by Product Dictate Actionable Claims
If a product harms itself, and no other property or persons, the only claim available will be a warranty cause of action, limited to repair or replacement of the product. This rule holds even if the user of the product reasonably and foreseeably relies on the product and suffers economic detriment from the failure of the product. But when the product causes harm or damage beyond itself, breach of implied warranty of merchantability can be an actionable cause. To understand the distinction, consider the following scenarios:
A landscaper purchases a riding lawnmower from a power tools dealership that regularly sells such items. The landscaper buys the mower to use in his business. While using the mower, it is under both express warranty and implied warranty, and the engine seizes, rendering it inoperable. The mower itself is damaged, but no other property or persons suffer harm. Meanwhile, the landscaper suffers monetary loss because he cannot conduct his business of cutting the lawns of customers. Still, the only claim here is a warranty claim in which the product must be repaired or replaced, or the purchase price must be refunded.
Contrast the above with circumstances in which the engine explodes, creating shrapnel being blown in several directions that causes injury to both the landscaper operating it and his landscaping customer standing nearby. The flying pieces of metal also damage the customer’s house and the landscaper’s truck. Here, either the landscaper or the customer can sue the manufacturer of the lawnmower to recover for injuries and property damage.
If the landscaper purchased the lawn mower from a flea market vendor, one who sells bric a brac, and is not a regular seller of lawnmowers, then the landscaper would have no cause of action against the flea market vendor, but would still have a claim against the manufacturer.
Negligence of Manufacturer Not Involving a Warranty
A manufacturer might be found negligent in the way it designed, manufactured, marketed or provided warnings about a product that causes some type of harm. This would involve an analysis of whether the manufacturer acted reasonably with regard to defects. Examine the following illustration:
The manufacturer of the fictitious lawnmower above uses fuel hoses that are manufactured by a subcontractor that supplies engine components. The fuels hoses are found to be faulty, and cause a leak of gasoline that makes contact with hot gasses being expelled by the engine. If this set of circumstances leads to personal injury or property damage, the maker of the lawnmowers will not be held liable. However, if the lawnmower manufacturer continues to install the same, faulty hoses, this will constitute actionable negligence. Also, if the maker of lawnmowers fails to provide adequate warning to consumers of the lawnmowers already sold, in the form of a recall notice, then that manufacturer can be held liable for negligence.
Enlist the Help of an Experienced Accident and Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury or property damage arising out of a faulty product, you need legal assistance to demonstrate breaches of warranty and resultant harm in order to recover for damages. Manufacturers of products stand to make large sums of money from the sales of items to the public in general. In return, they have a duty to detect dangerous conditions possibly caused by the products they sell and to ameliorate that risk. Cost cutting can minimize both quality control and manufacturing processes that ensure consistency of product, both of which can put the consumer at risk. Do not let the motive of profit maximization cause you undue hardship. Call the experienced accident attorney at the Law Offices of Roger Ghai, P.C. for a confidential consultation, and learn how you can recover for harm caused by a faulty product.