One of the primary sources of product liability law is the Uniform Commercial Code. The UCC came about as a way to harmonize laws governing commercial transactions from state to state. Each state legislature has adopted at least part of the UCC — California has adopted the entire UCC — and may have adapted at least one or two provisions to reflect conditions in their state.
Among the most frequently cited provisions of the U.C.C. are express and implied warranties. According to the Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, if these warranties are not satisfied they can form the basis of a product liability lawsuit.
Express warranties are described by UCC sect. 2-313 of the model law. Under this provision, if a seller expressly represents that the goods sold have specific qualities, the lack of those qualities in the sold products may serve as grounds for the buyer to sue for breach of warranty. An express warranty may arise if the seller:
- Makes a promise or makes claims of fact about the goods
- Uses specific descriptions for the goods (for example, promising that a car’s windows are made with shatterproof glass)
- Displays a model or sample
The situations in which an implied warranty exists are laid out in UCC sect. 2-314 and 2-315. Warranties of merchantability are implied in any sale as long as the seller is in the business of selling the types of goods in question. In order to be considered merchantable, goods must meet certain requirements. They must, for example, be fit for the usual uses for those goods, be packaged and labeled as required by the sale agreement and conform to the promises made by their labels.
It is important to note that sellers may be able to mount defenses to warranty claims under the provisions of UCC sect. 2-316. For example, a seller may be able to use a written disclaimer such as “sold as-is” to show that no implied warranty exists for that product.
These warranties are much more complicated than we can get into here. Suffice it to say, the law is an important starting point in product liability cases involving a breach of warranty claim.
Source: Cornell University School of Law, Legal Information Institute