Each state has its own laws to protect consumers from the dangers of poorly designed and manufactured products. Chicago residents are protected by the Illinois Commercial Code. It allows buyers and other intended users of a product to sue the manufacturer or seller for breach of warranty if the product causes personal injury or property damage.
A warranty is a guarantee by the seller or manufacturer that a particular product will not cause injury or property damage to the purchaser or others using the product. Warranties are either express or implied. An express warranty is, as its name implies, an explicit statement by the seller or manufacturer to the consumer about the quality or use of a product. If the product does not live up to the representation, a person who is injured by the product could sue for breach of warranty.
Sellers and manufacturers make express warranties in many ways, including representations made in written statements, advertisements, directions packed with the product, and photographs and statements on product packaging. Even a demonstration of a product used in a particular manner can form the basis for an express warranty.
For example, a shopper buys a kitchen knife after watching a salesperson demonstrate the sharpness of the blade by cutting through a tree branch. If the shopper is later injured when the knife blade snaps while cutting a piece of wood, the seller could be liable for breach of an express warranty created by the demonstration in the store.
An implied warranty is based on the reasonable expectations of the buyer rather than explicit representations made by the seller or manufacturer. Illinois recognizes two forms of implied warranty: the warranty of merchantability and the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose.
A warranty of merchantability is a guarantee from the seller or manufacturer that a product is in working order and will do what it was designed to do without causing injury or property damage. For instance, a man is injured when the lawnmower he is using to cut grass explodes. If it is discovered that the explosion was caused by a defect in the mower’s gas tank, the injured man could sue the seller and manufacturer for damages. The lawsuit would be based on a breach of warranty of merchantability because lawnmowers that are properly designed and manufactured do not explode.
A warranty of fitness for a particular use is created when a buyer explains his intended use of the product to a seller and then relies on the seller to select the proper product. For example, a person asks her mechanic to recommend a product to improve the performance of the diesel engine in her car. The product sold to her by the mechanic is only for gasoline-powered engines. She might be able to sue the seller if the product damages her diesel engine.
Warranty laws are complicated. A person who is injured or whose property is damaged because of a product should consult with a local attorney specializing in consumer actions.