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Products Liability and Warranties

Breach of warranty claims are typically brought as products liability actions. In that instance, a person who is injured by a consumer product may argue that he or she was injured because he/she relied on certain warranties the manufacturer or seller made that were not true. Negligence claims may be added to the products liability claim as well.

For a breach of warranty, a buyer must provide a seller with notice of an alleged breach within a reasonable time, but typically the seller must first be provided an opportunity to cure this breach.

For a negligence claim, the plaintiff must show a duty, breach of that duty, and a causal relationship between the breach and the resulting injury, and actual loss. Pennsylvania courts have held that product designers and manufacturers have a duty to exercise reasonable care in manufacturing and designing products, therefore, product liability claims may be brought in negligence terms.

A product liability claim may be brought as breach of an express warranty i.e. a brochure or pamphlet written warranty. An example would be a company advertising a full refund if the product is defective within 90 days. Such an insurance would be considered a written warranty. However, many product liability warranty claims are typically in the form of implied warranties i.e. warranties not actually communicated but implied. In PA, these implied warranties would be (1) the implied warranty of merchantability and (2) the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purposes. These two warranties can be found in Pennsylvania Statutes 13 Pa.C.S. §§ 2314-2315.

An implied warranty of merchantability is an unwritten and unspoken guarantee to a buyer that the goods purchased conform to ordinary standards of care and that they are of the same average grade, quality, and value as similar goods sold under similar circumstances. For example, this means, regardless of whether you buy a name-brand lawnmower or a department store lawnmower, both have an implied warranty of merchantability that they conform to ordinary standards of care, quality, and value of lawnmowers. If the lawnmower is labeled as a gas lawnmower, then it should not be an electric lawnmower.

The warranty of merchantability covers new as well as used goods. If the goods are used, then they are guaranteed to work for their intended purposes, given their condition at the time of resale. Thus, the warranty does not require that second-hand goods work as well as new ones, but will still guarantee that they work as expected given their condition.

An implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is an unwritten and unspoken guarantee to a buyer that if a seller knows or has reason to know of a particular purpose for which an item is being purchased by the buyer, the seller is guaranteeing that the item is fit for that particular purpose. For example, whether you buy a name-brand lawnmower or a department store lawnmower, both have an implied warranty of fitness for the particular purpose of cutting grass. This means that both lawnmowers are guaranteed to cut grass, not blow bubbles or be a flame thrower.

If you or someone you know has questions about products liability, contact an RMN attorney today at or 412.626.5626.


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