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Plaintiff Loses Product Liability Appeal Against Car Manufacturer

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Virginia issued an opinion in a product liability case against an auto maker, alleging that the manufacturer failed to manufacture a soft-top convertible capable of protecting the occupants during a rollover collision. In the case, Holiday Motor Corporation v. Walters, the court ultimately held that the auto maker did not have a duty to manufacture a soft-top convertible capable of safely withstanding a rollover collision.

Mazda MiataImplied Warranty of Merchantability

The plaintiff’s lawsuit was brought under the theory that the auto maker breached the implied warranty of merchantability. This legal theory relies on the implied, or unstated, warranty that the manufacturer of a product makes to all consumers that a product is fit for a particular purpose. A plaintiff making an argument for a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability is claiming that the product purchased was not fit for the purpose for which they purchased the product.

The Facts of the Case

Walters was driving a 1995 soft-top Mazda Miata convertible on a two-lane road when she noticed an object fall off the pick-up truck in front of her. She attempted to avoid colliding with the object by steering the car to the right. As she did so, however, she left the roadway and traveled up a sloped embankment, rolling the vehicle. The vehicle ultimately came to a stop upside down, leaning against a tree.

The structure of the vehicle’s roof offered insufficient support to keep it from caving in, and the plaintiff suffered serious back and neck injuries as a result. She filed a claim against the auto maker, alleging a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. Essentially, she was claiming that the soft-top roof should have offered protection in the rollover crash.

The court, however, disagreed, explaining that when a person seeks out and purchases a soft-top convertible, they should be aware that the vehicle will not offer the same protection as a traditional model. In fact, the court said, a car that has a soft-top is probably sought out exactly for that feature, rather than its being an incidental feature to a buyer’s purchase. The court also noted that the industry standard is not to create soft-tops that can withstand a rollover accident, and there are no federal regulations regarding the amount of force a soft-top convertible must be able to withstand. As a result, judgment was entered in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff will not have an opportunity to obtain compensation for her injuries.

Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of South Florida car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation from one or several parties. Many accident victims make the assumption that the only party that can be named in a personal injury lawsuit is the at-fault driver. However, this is not necessarily the case. In many cases, the manufacturer of a vehicle can be named if the vehicle did an insufficient job of protecting the occupants of the vehicle. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Cohn & Smith have decades of experience handling personal injury cases, including those arising out of car accidents and injuries caused by dangerous products. Call 954-431-8100 today to set up your free consultation to speak with an experienced attorney about your case.

Related Blog Posts:

Product Liability Appeal Dismissed, Based on Plaintiff’s Failure to Show Alternative Design, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, September 19, 2016.

Court Interprets Insurance Policy as “Per Accident” Rather Than “Per Insured Vehicle,” Limiting Company’s Liability, South Florida Injury Attorney Blog, September 6, 2016.

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