Badilla v. Wal-Mart Stores – Product Liability Breach of Implied Warranties

Consumers in the U.S. are protected by a number of provisions of both state and federal laws with regard to promises or “warranties” made by companies about their products.

Some of these warranties are in written or spoken form. These are called “express warranties.” However, there are also certain unwritten, unspoken expectations to which consumers are entitled. These are called “implied warranties.”

Essentially, consumers almost always have some recourse when products don’t meet their basic expectations – especially when the result is someone is injured. The most common that we see in product liability law is implied warranty of merchantability. That means the product is guaranteed to work and be reasonably safe when used for its intended purpose.

If there is some defect in the product that renders it unsafe and that defect results in injury, plaintiff may file a personal injury lawsuit based on the legal theory of product liability, citing breach of implied warranty of merchantability.

This was one of the assertions made by plaintiff in Badilla v. Wal-Mart Stores East Inc., a case that recently went before the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Here, according to court records, plaintiff purchased a pair of work boots at a big box chain store. On the packaging, it indicated the boots meet standards set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for protection against falls, rolling objects, piercing objects and exposure to electrical wires. Plaintiff said while he was working on cutting dead tree limbs, the boots came unglued, resulting in him tripping and falling and injuring his back. He ultimately had to undergo surgery.

More than three years from the date of his fall, he filed a lawsuit against the store and manufacturer for breach of express and implied warranties for his injuries.

Defendants moved for summary judgment on two grounds: First, that the claim was time-barred by the three-year time limit for personal injury claims (rather than the four-year statute of limitations for breach of warranties), and second, plaintiff was not able to establish the elements for breach of express and implied warranties.

Plaintiff appealed. Appellate court affirmed the ruling on the statute of limitations issue, and because this effectively barred the claim, it didn’t rule on whether plaintiff had established the elements of his claim.

The New Mexico Supreme Court reversed, finding the claim was not time-barred because it was subject to the four-year time limit, rather than the three-year time limit.

The court then remanded the case to the appellate court for determination of whether plaintiff’s claims have sufficient merit to survive summary judgment. That means plaintiff will have another opportunity for the court to decide whether his product liability lawsuit meets the basic requirements to continue to the trial phase.

Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.

Additional Resources:
Badilla v. Wal-Mart Stores East Inc., Sept. 10, 2015, New Mexico Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Cook v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Inc. – Product Liability Lawsuit After Mal Moore’s Death, Aug. 15, 2015, Montgomery Injury Attorney Blog

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