A warranty is an express or implied representation of fact that is upheld by law against the person who offered it. Product liability law addresses three kinds of warranties on the basis of a product’s quality or usability which in their most simple form are:
- Express warranty: an explicit representation by a merchant that a certain product will perform in a manner consistent with a buyer’s expectations.
- Implied warranty of merchantability: the reasonable expectations of users of the particular product.
- Implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose: a product performs in a manner that ordinary buyers of that particular product would expect.
A breach of warranty occurs when claims or representations made about a particular product, at the time of sale, later prove to be false or erroneous. One of the most common instances in which the breach of an express warranty occurs is in connection with the sale of an automobile. In most cases, the manufacturer of the vehicle will warranty, or guarantee, that certain components of the car will operate without defects for a specified number of miles, or for a certain period of time. Should the vehicle fail in this regard during the warranty period, a breach of warranty has occurred and the manufacturer, or more commonly, the car dealer is legally obligated to repair the defects for free. North Carolina has specific statutes regarding defective vehicles.
Breach of the implied warranty of merchantability occurs when a product fails to perform in a manner that ordinary buyers of that particular product would expect. Merchantability refers to, for example, the purchase of a ball that fails to bounce correctly, or rapidly deflates, would constitute a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. In many situations, a seller may disclaim the implied warranty of merchantability at the time of sale by using the phrase; the product is sold “as is.” In some jurisdictions, this type of manufacturer’s disclaimer, on the implied warranty for certain consumer goods, is prohibited.
A breach of the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose occurs when the buyer relies on the merchant to sell him a specific product for a certain need or purpose. For example, a breach of warranty will occur if a buyer asks a merchant for a drill that will bore through concrete, but receives a drill that fails to properly perform this particular task. In some jurisdictions, breach of warranty is a recognized cause of action for a products liability lawsuit. Any personal injuries sustained by a user of a product as a result of a breach of either the implied warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose are typically legally actionable.
If you believe any warranty has been breached you should notify the seller and manufacturer in writing, keeping copies of all letters. Give them a reasonable chance to make necessary repairs or replace the defective product. Thirty days to accomplish this is usually considered reasonable. You should also speak to a products liability attorney. Evidence should be presented.
Whether you are a manufacturer or a consumer, it is imperative that you be aware of your rights and obligations regarding warranty. It is essential that if you believe you have been unjustly treated in a warranty matter, you obtain the assistance of an experienced lawyer in warranty litigation as quickly as possible. Our warranty litigation attorneys have over 20 years of experience helping customers navigate the complex laws and issues that arise when dealing with warranty claims. If you have questions regarding a warranty, contact us today.
Last updated 7/5/2015