Friday, August 5, 2011

Drilling Down: Implied Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose a/k/a The Stiletto Heel Warranty

You are probably wondering why there are pictures of a red stiletto heel and a hiking shoe at the beginning of this blog post.  Although you may not realize it, the contrast in function and use of these shoes provides the perfect example of this particular warranty.  How?  Read on, as we drill down a bit on the implied warranty of fitness for particular purpose.
The implied warranty of fitness for particular purpose is set forth in S.C. Code § 36-2-315.  It states:

Where the seller at the time of contracting has reason to know any particular purpose for which the goods are required and that the buyer is relying on the seller's skill or judgment to select or furnish suitable goods, there is unless excluded or modfied under the next section (§ 36-2-316) an implied warranty that the goods shall be fit for such purpose.
So what exactly does this mean?  Official Comment 2 provides some guidance.  A particular purpose differs from an ordinary purpose for which goods are used because it envisages a specific use by the buyer that is peculiar to his/her business.  "For example, shoes are generally used for the purpose of walking upon ordinary ground, but a seller may know that a particular pair was selected to be used for climbing mountains."  (S.C. Code § 36-2-315, Off. Cmt. 2).

So imagine this hypothetical: Gisele Bundchen walks into a shoe store and says, "Tom and I were thinking about getting away this weekend for a hike somewhere...maybe on the Appalachian Trail.  Can you give me some shoes for that?"  Overwhelmed by her beauty, the merchant automatically reaches for a pair of fire engine red stiletto heels and gawks as Gisele tries them on.  Speechless, he hands her the change as she buys the heels and heads out the door. 

If Gisele breaks a heel and her ankle while on her hiking trip, then she may have an action for breach of implied warranty of fitness for particular purpose against the seller.  Why?  Because she conveyed to him a very particular purpose for which she needed some gear, and it was different from the ordinary purpose for which shoes are generally used (i.e., walking on ordinary ground). 

Obviously, this is an oversimplification of a cause of action for breach of this implied warranty.  However, you get the point.  This implied warranty contemplates -- as its name suggests -- a very specific purpose for the product.  Whether this warranty arises is basically a question of fact determined by the circumstances of the contracting.  The buyer does not necessarily have to prove knowledge of the particular purpose or reliance thereon by the buyer if the circumstances are such that the seller has reason to know of the purpose or reliance.   (S.C. Code § 36-2-315, Off. Cmt. 1).

This really is not known as "The Stiletto Heel Warranty" (and you probably figured out by now that I made that up).  However, it helps me remember how this implied warranty differs from ordinary use encompassed by the implied warranty of merchantability.
Have a nice weekend all.

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