Breach of Warranty

Breach of warranty occurs when a seller, manufacturer, or distributor fails to guarantee that the product being sold is not of proper quality, or simply no longer works in the way it was expected to work. The period of the warranty is generally a period of one year, particularly for products like appliances, both large and small.

There are 3 main kinds of warranties – an express warranty, implied warranty of merchantability, and implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. These warranties all fall under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which all states have adopted in some part.

How to Create an Express Warranty

You can create an express warranty in several ways:

  1. An affirmation of fact that the goods will work as expected
  2. A description of the goods, as the purchaser can expect the description to match the actual product
  3. Offering a sample, as the purchaser can rely on that sample for what to expect when using the actual product

The express warranty could be either oral or written. Therefore, any of the above can be done so orally. With that said, it could be much harder for a purchaser to prove a verbal express warranty, particularly if the seller denies that such a verbal promise was made.

The most common type of express warranty is given in the instruction manual that is provided to the purchaser in the box that comes with the product itself. Quite often, the warranty provided will be for a period of one year from the date of the purchase. Furthermore, some express warranties also provide that in order for the express warranty to take effect, the purchaser must register the product on the company’s website.

When is an Implied Warranty Created?

Implied warranties are imposed by law. Specifically, the implied warranty of merchantability only takes effect if certain criterion is met. According to the UCC, the product and its packaging must meet certain standards of quality.

The implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose comes with the same type of requirements for those products with sellers who know that there is a specific way in which the goods are to be used. Moreover, the buyer must show reliance on the person or business selling the goods with an expectation that the goods being sold can be properly used for its intended purpose.

For example, let’s assume that you own a business, and need to purchase several laptops from a computer supplier. You tell the supplier that you need computers that will be able to work at a certain speed since you have several processes that might be used on the laptop at once. When the seller provides you with a type of laptop to purchase, he or she is now making an implied warranty of fitness. Thereafter, when you begin using the laptop, if it doesn’t do what you wanted it to do in terms of speed, you can contact the computer supplier (seller) and indicate that you expect a new product to be supplied at no additional cost. If the seller refuses, you can bring a legal suit for implied warranty of fitness.

If a legal suit does arise, the purchaser doesn’t have to prove negligence or fault since a breach of warranty comes with strict liability for the manufacturer, seller, and/or distributor. However, the defendant will be able to bring its own defense, particularly in the terms of contract-related defenses. This can include any one of the following:

  1. The seller might require that the purchaser immediately bring a notice of breach to the seller’s attention, giving the seller an opportunity to rectify the problem
  2. The seller might require that the buyer prove that he or she relies on the warranty
  3. The seller can limit or disclaim the implied warranty entirely

Strict Liability

In terms of strict liability, it is important to note that the seller could be entirely responsible for all defective items that unreasonably threaten the buyer’s own personal safety when using the product. Therefore, the seller will be liable if it typically sold such products, i.e. company that sells only appliances. The seller could still be liable even if it exercised care in handling the product before it reached the buyer, and even if the buyer had no direct dealing with the seller.

If you need help determining whether the manufacturer, seller, or distributor breached an implied or express warranty, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5-percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law, and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.