Quiz 22: Warranties and Product Liability
Classical tort law is based on the manufacturer's conduct in placing a defective product into the stream of commerce. Strict product liability does not focus on the manufacturer's conduct but rather the product itself. If the product is faulty, it does not matter the level of care the manufacturer exercised in placing the good into the stream of commerce.
M was a farmer who wanted to install a piece of equipment in his farm that weighed two-thousand-pound. The equipment requited to be lifted and kept in a hayloft that was thirty feet high. M goes to DH to purchase a rope so as to lift the equipment. M asks DH for a heavy-duty rope that can be used in the farm. On the recommendation DH, M purchases two hundred feet of a one-inch thick nylon rope but the rope breaks while lifting the equipment, leaving the equipment damaged. M sued DH for the breach of implied warranty of fitness of a particular product. Under UCC Article 2 section 315, implied warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose arises when the seller is aware about the following two things, they are: 1. The particular purpose for which the good will be used by the buyer. 2. The buyer relies on the skill and judgment of the seller for selection of the suitable good (UCC 2-315, 2A-213). In the given case M asked DH to provide a heavy-duty rope to be used on his farm but did not mention the particular purpose for which the rope was supposed to be used. DH was unaware that the particular purpose for which the rope was supposed to be used was to lift a two-thousand-pound equipment up to the height of 30ft. with the help of a tractor and a pulley. The rope was not generally used in the farm, it was used for a significantly different purpose that could not have been known by DH. As it can be seen that DH did not know about the particular purpose for which the rope was supposed to be used , then it cannot be said that DH gave incorrect recommendation. The rope that was recommended by DH was on the basis of the statement that the rope was required for farm use. Had M specifically mentioned that he wanted the rope to lift a two-thousand-pound equipment, then DH would have suggested a rope taking this fact into consideration. Similarly, it cannot be stated that M, the buyer, fully relied on DH's judgment because M himself determined the length that he thought would be sufficient to lift the equipment. Also, if M would have actually trusted the judgment of DH then he would have specifically mentioned the purpose of rope so that DH could recommend the rope and its length accordingly. Thus, M would not successful in his suit.
The court finds that an exculpatory clause conflicts with the public policy behind strict products liability by failing to protect consumers in the same way. Strict product liability focuses on the nature of the product, rather than the conduct of the manufacturer. If a manufacturer could simply write off that liability and shift the burden to the consumer, strict product liability would no longer exist.