Local Father Sues Car Dealer, Manufacturer in Death of His Son
The West Virginia Record reports that a Beckley father is suing the Fort Motor Company and its local dealership for what he says was their role in the death of his son.
Danny S. Wellman, in his capacity as administrator for his son’s estate, filed the suit on February 12 in Wyoming Circuit Court. The named defendants are Ford Motor Company and Ramey Automotive Group Inc. (which does business as Ramey Ford Lincoln of Beckley). The suit alleges negligence and other violations in the March 4, 2013 death of Jarred S. Wellman.
According to the lawsuit, Wellman was driving his Ford Explorer southbound on Interstate 77 when he passed over a graveled area on the berm. At that point, the vehicle rolled over on the highway repeatedly. Wellman’s seatbelt then came loose, the roof caved in and the driver’s side window shattered, throwing Wellman onto the highway and causing a fatal head injury.
The suit says that the dealership sold a defective motor vehicle or an auto with defective parts to Danny and/or Amanda Wellman, that the car was not crash-worthy, and that defendants should have known of these defects and are therefore in breach of implied warranty and liable for the damages caused by the car’s design and manufacturing defects.
Wellman is seeking compensation for sorrow and anguish, loss of income and services, and medical and funeral expenses. Attorneys Patrick McFarland, Christopher Heavens and Jaime Jackson represent Wellman in the suit.
Judge Warren McGraw is assigned to the case, number 15-C-27.
What Is An Implied Warranty?
Wellman’s case relies on the idea of implied warranty. In common law jurisdictions such as West Virginia, implied warranty is a contract term that means certain assurances are assumed made in the sale of merchandise or real property.
In other words, if someone sells you something, merely because they are selling it, the law presumes that they are making certain guarantees about its quality.
When an automobile is sold, there is an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. This means, of course, that the car is safe to drive and meets certain standards for withstanding accidents. If this is not the case, the seller must make this clear at the time of purchase. Otherwise, he could be liable for breach of implied warranty, as Danny Wellman alleges in his suit against Ford and the dealership.
Sometimes this implied warranty is simply called a warranty of fitness.
When a car is sold, there is also an implied warranty of merchantability. This means that the product must conform to standards of trade, fit the purpose for which it is ordinarily used and be uniform in quality.
This implied warranty only applies to merchants, not individuals. So, this implied warranty of merchantability would apply to Ford Motor Company and the dealership, but not an individual who was selling a used car in his driveway.
The Uniform Commercial Code, or the UCC, governs these implied warranties.
Disclaiming An Implied Warranty
In some US jurisdictions, it is possible for merchants to expressly disclaim these warranties, if they use specific wording, such as “as-is” or “with all faults” during the sale, or in the sale contract. The disclaimer must be very visible in the contract—such as in another font or in print that makes it easily stand out.
In some cases, contractual language can also limit the remedies available in breach of implied warranty cases. The amount of recoverable damages can be capped, or the remedy can be limited to the replacement of a defective item.