Breach Of Warranty: Another Option For Attaching Liability For Injuries

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A good portion of personal injury cases that pass through the courts deal with some type of negligence on the defendants' part that caused the plaintiffs' injuries. However, that's not the only legal theory you can use to sue for compensation for your damages and losses. Breach of warranty is another way you can attach liability for your injuries to the responsible party, such as in a case where you were injured while using a product. Here's more information about using this legal theory in your product liability case.

Injuries Based on Contract Law

Breach of warranty is rooted in contract law rather than tort law. Essentially, this legal theory states the defendant made explicit or implicit guarantees but failed to live up to those guarantees. For instance, a company guarantees the rope it sells is strong enough to hold up to 300 pounds. If the rope consistently breaks with only 100 pounds of weight on it, then the company has breached the warranty it made to its customers.

Two Types of Warranties

There are two types of warranties: explicit and implicit. An explicit warranty is when a person or company makes a verbal or written guarantee about something. A good example of this is when the company says a product is fit for a specific purpose (e.g. a coffee mug that's safe to put in the microwave).

An implicit warranty is when a guarantee is implied by the nature of the transaction. When you purchase a box of cereal at a grocery store, there is an implicit guarantee the food is safe to eat. The only way around an implied warranty is for the individual or company to specifically state the exceptions to the rule. For instance, many companies indicate whether their products have come in contact with nuts for the benefit of people with nut allergies.

Many times both types of warranties will apply, but there are also times when neither type of warranty is in effect. This is commonly the case when people use products off-label. Superglue is designed and marketed for use on inorganic materials like tables and toys. There is no explicit guarantee the product is safe to use on skin, and companies that make this substance remove the implicit guarantee by warning against getting it on your body. So if you use it as a medical aid to close a gash on your body, the company generally cannot be held liable if you are further injured by this practice.

Using Breach of Warranty in Your Product Liability Case

To effectively use breach of warranty to attach responsibility for damages to an individual or company in your product liability case, you must establish there was an explicit or implicit guarantee in effect when you purchased the product from the company. This is not always as easy as you would think, because sometimes you have to prove the company's claim was a guarantee and not simply puffery.

Puffery is a type of exaggerated marketing language that is not meant to be taken literally. An example of puffery is a company saying it makes the best laundry detergent in the world. Any reasonable person wouldn't believe this statement because it's obviously exaggerated.

A more subtle example would be a cell phone company who claims you'll be able to get service anywhere in the world. This could be seen as a guarantee, especially if it's a global company. At the same time, the claim could be construed as puffery because there are places where cell service doesn't work for natural or unnatural reasons. If you were mauled by an animal because you couldn't use your cell phone despite what the company claims, then your case may hinge on the court's interpretation of said claim.

You need to make sure the guarantee the individual or company made is factual in nature and that a reasonable person would consider the statement to be a guarantee.

The second thing is you must prove the warranty was breached, which typically means showing the product failed to live up to the company's claims. Going back to the rope example, if the company claims the rope can hold 300 pounds but it broke after holding only 100 pounds, you would need to submit evidence showing the rope cannot hold 300 pounds. This may include submitting tests done by experts or video evidence showing the rope breaking with only 100 pounds of weight attached.

You would also have to prove you were using the product as intended. If you were using the product in a way that is counter to how the company designed the product to be used, then the court may find the company didn't breach the warranty because the guarantee only covers normal usage.

For more information about breach of warranty and how you can use it in your case, contact a personal injury lawyer.