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Warranty, Product Liability and Consumer Law
Product liability and warranty are crucial aspects of consumer law. Product liability is a law area in which people and organizations that make goods available to the public are considered responsible for injuries and damages these goods cause (Kolb, 2008). Warranty is a sellers promise regarding character, quality, and sustainability of the products sold (Gohsman, 2008). This paper is aimed at analyzing particular legal case related to the product liability and warranty issue with the help of an overlapping Liebeck v. McDonalds case.
The case under consideration involves two parties: Shalene Kolchek, the buyer, and Val Porter, the dealer, who was selling spas at a fair. Porter described the product in an extremely positive way and ensured Kolchek that the guarantee of service is a minimum of 3 years. The buyer and the seller signed a sale contract, and then Porter made sure that Kolchek had her spa delivered and installed. Spa started leaking and damaged the deck three months after the purchase was finalized. Kolchek had complained about this defect to Porter, but the latter did nothing to solve the problem. It has to be noted, however, that the defect did not stop Kolchek from using the spa. This case will be analyzed in order to detect potential consumer rights violations, product liability, and possible breach of warranty (Miller, 2012).
When any kind of trade takes place, a contract is concluded. According to it, one party agrees to pay a certain amount of money while the other receives this payment in exchange for certain merchandise (Allee, Mayer, & Patryk, 2015). Sales contracts may be oral or written. To persuade Kolchek to enter one of those, the seller described the product as the top of the line and the Cadillac of spas. Such a statement of Porter may be viewed as such that creates an implied warranty based on the reasonable expectations of the buyer (Shaw, 2010). Moreover, the description may be considered a deceptive advertising because it clearly misled the customer, who had no knowledge and experience of dealing with the goods the seller offered (Ducat, 2012). Porter also ensured Kolchek that the product was fully warranted for three years, what is an express warranty.
Porter breached warranty of merchantability. The latter presupposes that the good is merchantable, that is sellable and fit for its ordinary purpose. The seller warrants that the product sold is properly packaged and labeled as well as reasonably fit for its ordinary purposes. An implied warranty of merchantability means that the product being sold is sellable, or that it will perform its functions without injuring or killing anyone (Horsey & Rackley, 2013). An oral express warranty can be disclaimed in writing if the disclaimer is clear, conspicuous, and called to the buyers attention at the time the contract is formed. A disclaimer of the implied warranty of merchantability must specifically mention the word merchantability. The disclaimer should not be obligatory in writing, but if it is, it must be conspicuous (Bradburn, 2001).
When Kolcheks daughter, Litisha, had her hair entangled in the spas drain, she was sucked down, remained under water for a rather significant amount of time, and, hence, suffered brain damage. When deciding whether Kolchek can sue Porter to recover Litishas injuries based on one of the theories of product liability, or what defense to liability Porter may apply, the infamous Liebeck v. McDonalds case could be used.
Stella Liebeck took McDonalds to court to recover damages from injuries suffered when she spilled a cup of fast food coffee on her lap. Jurys decided in favor of the plaintiff and initially chose to award her with 2.9 million dollars (Donnelly, 2004). Such a court decision sparked public outrage against civil justice system (The New York Times, 2013). Criticism never focused on the specific facts of the case but rather ridiculed the jury system, which granted a person who simply spilled coffee with millions of dollars. Instead, the fact that McDonalds Corporation prepared coffee in a very dangerous way should have been considered. In order to understand Liebecks case ruling, society has to know what a product liability law is. This consumer law seeks to compensate individuals who are injured by products and wants held their manufacturers liable. The consumers must be able to find someone who will respond to legitimate complaints about abuses taking place in the market and products that do not meet expectations (Donnelly, 2004).
The situation Kolchek and Porter found themselves in is similar. It can be claimed that Litisha, as well as Liebeck, was a victim of spas drain defect. The product should have been inspected in a more careful way before it was issued into the market, but it did not happen. Therefore, the sellers negligence can be observed. However, if it was Kolchek who left Litisha alone in the spa, the negligence might be the buyers. Since Kolchek knew that the spa had defects, it would be reasonable for her to stop using it and return it to the seller. Thus, Kolchek can sue Porter to recover for Litishas injuries according to one of the theories of product liability. According to the law, the cases most commonly related to product liability are the breach of warranty, strict liability, negligence, and various consumer protection claims.
To conclude, in the case of Kolchek v. Porter, there is an implied warranty because the seller explicitly described the uniqueness of the spa. Porter breached the implied warranty of merchantability because the spa did not meet expectations of the buyer and broke down three months after the purchase. Kolchek can sue Porter under the theory of product liability connected to defective functioning of the produce. Porter can assert a defense to liability by stating that there was the buyers negligence.