Wednesday, January 23, 2008

consumer - warranty - UCC- UTPCPL - Magnuson-Moss

Woolums v. National RV - MD Pa. - January 17, 2008

Plaintiff sued under the UCC,13 Pa. C.S 2313-2316; the Consumer Protection Law, 73 P.S. 201-1 et seq.; and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty-FTC Improvement Act, 15 USC 2301-2312. The case was originally brought in state court, but removed to federal court on defendant's motion.

Defendant moved for summary judgment on all claims. The court granted the motion only as to breach of the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, holding that they had been properly disclaimed -- it was in writing, was conspicuous, and used appropriate and understandable language. Defendant's motion for summary judgment was denied as to all other claims, based on applicable law and because there were genuine issues as to material facts.

Defendant issued a one-year limited warranty covering the costs of repairing or replacing parts and labor to correct Covered Defects, which are limited to the any manufacture or assembly process performed by National. Problems with other parts were outside of this warranty. There was no representation that the covered parts or workmanship conformed to any standard of quality or performance. Plaintiff had numerous problems with the RV and took it in for repairs on many occasions.

seller's promise to repair or replace is an express warranty under UCC 2313(a)(1)
Noting a split of authority on the issue, which it said Pennsylvania courts have not squarely addressed, the court held that the "repair-or-replace covenant constitutes an express warranty actionable under the UCC, 13 Pa. C.S 2313(a)(1). The court noted the "breadth of statutory language [that] provides that "any affirmation of fact or promises...creates an express warranty that the good shall conform to the affirmation or promise...[T]he word 'any' suggests that all express promises that pertain to the goods become warranties, even if they do not specifically address the goods' quality or nature...The UCC official comments confirm that sec. 2313 is to be given a wide berth." National itself used the term "express warranty." Under those circumstances, the court said the "it would be fundamentally unfair to permit National to invoke an illusory construction of its contractual language, leaving merely a remedial promise to repair" instead of the express promise to repair or replace.

The court noted that the "express warranty at issue, like many contracts between commercial sellers and consumer, is one of adhesion....Adhesion contracts are not per se invalid, but courts strictly construe them against the drafting party, who holds a position of superior bargaining power and can dictate the agreement's terms."

failure of limited remedy to accomplish its essential purpose
The court held that the parties' positions differed significantly on the issue of whether defendant's attempt to limit plaintiff's remedies caused them to "fail of its essential purpose" under UCC sec. 2719(b), thus raising a jury question and precluding summary judgment, given the buyer's proffered evidence that he was unable to use the motor home for about eight months because of repairs that were covered by the warranty. An exclusive repair--as opposed to repair-replace-- remedy is acceptable, "so long as the buyer has the use of substantially defect-free goods. But when the seller is either unwilling or unable to conform the good to the contract, the remedy does not suffice" and fails of its essential purpose.

Magnuson-Moss warranty claim - 15 USC 2301 et seq.
This act "provides relief for consumers 'damaged by the failure of a supplier, warrantor, or service contractor to comply with any obligation under [the Act] or under a written warranty, implied warranty, or service contract.' 15 USC 2301(d)(1)..."Written warranties under the act include those which guarantee that the seller will 'repair, replace, or take other remedial action with respect to a defective product in the event that such product fails to meet the specifications set forth in the undertaking...A violation of the act allows the consumer to seek recovery of the purchase price of the product plus attorney's fees and costs. The court denied defendant's motion for summary judgment on this claim, finding that "a reasonable jury could find that defendant failed to abide by the term of the warranty," in violation of the statute.

state consumer protection claim 73 P.S. 201-1 et seq.
A failure to comply with the terms of any written guarantee or warranty is actionable under the CPL, sec. 201-2(4)(xiv). Summary judgment for defendant denied because of genuine issue of material fact.