Arvo Lake, a retired seventy-one year old man, bought an air conditioner in May. The unit was installed and operated according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Unbeknownst to Lake, the unit contained a hole in the refrigeration system that allowed Freon, the coolant, to escape from the unit. By August, the unit had ceased cooling, and Lake’s residence reached a temperature of at least 96 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat caused Lake to suffer from hyperthermia, which caused circulatory failure and then death. The executor of Lake’s estate sued the manufacturer of the air conditioner for damages resulting from breach of warranty. Which warranties, if any, has the manufacturer of the air conditioner breached? For a manufacturer to be liable for consequential damages caused by a breach of warranty, the consequential damages must be foreseeable to the manufacturer. Was Lake’s death a foreseeable consequence of the air conditioner’s failure to operate properly? The book states: The most common types of product liability cases are based on the following types of defects: 1 Design defects A product with a faulty design exposes its users to unnecessary risks, and products must be designed with all foreseeable uses in mind. Cars must be designed in view of the probability of accidents. To make the best possible case in the event of product liability suit, it is helpful for the manufacturer to have compiled with all federal and state regulations on the product. It is also helpful if the manufacturer has used the latest technology and designs available within the industry and has met industry standards in designing its product. 2. Dangers of use due to lack of warnings or unclear use instructions Manufacturers have a duty to warn buyers of a foreseeably dangerous use of a product that the buyers are not likely to realize is dangerous. They also have a duty to supplement the warnings. Manufacturers must also give adequate instructions to buyers on the proper use of the product. 3. Errors in manufacturing, handling or packaging of the product. The breach of duty is the most difficult form of negligence to prove. The large number of handlers in the process of manufacturing and packaging a product typically makes it difficult to prove when and how the manufacturer was negligent. The breach of the warranty is that the A/C was defective due to a design defect, and the manufacture is liable for the harm it cause to Lake Breach of warranty-based product liability claims usually focus on one of three types: 1. Breach of an express warranty – An express warranty is a guarantee from the seller of a product that specifies the extent to which the quality or performance of the product is assured and states the conditions under which the product can be returned, replaced, or repaired. It is often given in the form of a specific, written “Warranty” document. However, a warranty may also arise by operation of law based upon the seller’s description of the goods, and perhaps their source and quality, and any material deviation from that specification would violate the guarantee. For example, an advertisement describing a product is often full of express warranties; the product must substantially conform to what is advertised. Many advertisers insert disclaimers for this purpose (e. g. , “actual color/mileage/results may vary”, or “not shown actual size”). Commonly, written warranties will assure the buyer that an article is of good quality and against defects in “materials and workmanship. ” A warranty may also apply to services that are sold. For example, an automobile repair shop may guarantee its repair for a period of 90 days. 2. Breach of an implied warranty of merchantability – warranties covers those expectations common to all products. The warranty of merchantability is implied, unless expressly disclaimed by name, or the sale is identified with the phrase “as is” or “with all faults. ” To be “merchantable”, the goods must reasonably conform to an ordinary buyer’s expectations, i. e. , they are what they say they are. For example, a fruit that looks and smells good but has hidden defects would violate the implied warranty of merchantability if its quality does not meet the standards for such fruit “as passes ordinarily in the trade”. 3. Breach of an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose – The warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is implied when a buyer relies upon the seller to select the goods to fit a specific request. For example, this warranty is violated when a buyer asks a mechanic to provide snow tires and receives tires that are unsafe to use in snow. This implied warranty can also be expressly disclaimed by name, thereby shifting the risk of unfitness back to the buyer. (e. g. , that a tool is not unreasonably dangerous when used for its proper purpose), unless specifically disclaimed by the manufacturer or the seller.
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