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Can I Sue an Appliance Company?

Yes, you may be able to sue an appliance company if the appliance you buy is defective. Most appliance sales come with limited warranties. If the company violates the terms of the warranty, you may be able to sue for breach of contract.

If your loss is simply the money you spent on the defective product, you may be able to bring your contract case against the manufacturer in small claims court.

Before doing that, give the seller and the manufacturer a chance to repair or replace your appliance before you pay the court filing fee. You'll save money and may get relief sooner.

Types of Appliance Company Lawsuits

Some defective appliance problems might not cause an injury but the issues can still be severe enough to cause property damage, such as in a house fire. Like lemon laws for cars, consumer protection laws protect you from the impact of appliance product defects. You could benefit from consulting a consumer protection attorney.

If the product injured you, your warranty claim becomes part of a product liability case against the appliance company. Injury cases are complex, so an experienced product liability lawyer may be a more suitable option.

Learn more about these two types of lawsuits below.

Appliances Have Transformed Our Lives

In 2021, more than 500 million small and major appliances were shipped in the United States. Some of the top-rated manufacturers include the following:

  • Whirlpool
  • Maytag
  • KitchenAid
  • Electrolux
  • Frigidaire
  • GE
  • Sub-Zero

These manufacturers often have excellent reputations, but you could still encounter a product issue. The timer on your new microwave might not work, or your new oven won't heat evenly. Your refrigerator worked fine before breaking down two days after delivery.

Most problems with defective appliances do not result in anyone getting hurt. If your dishwasher breaks down, you'll likely do dishes by hand until you can repair it. That's inconvenient and frustrating. If your gas range is defective, your house could burn down and your family might be injured.

In either case, you may have a claim against the appliance company. The nature of the case depends on the extent of your injuries.

Scenario One: No One Gets Hurt (Breach of Warranty)

If no one was injured, you would have a straightforward breach of contract case against the appliance company. The theory of liability would be a breach of warranty.

Before considering the steps of a lawsuit, you should understand how warranties function.

Types of Warranties

There are two main types of warranties: implied and expressed.

Express warranty: An express warranty is a spoken or written promise that a product will meet a certain level of quality and reliability. For most appliance purchases, the manufacturer includes a written limited warranty that typically guarantees that the product will work for a time, such as five years, with regular use.

Implied warranty: An implied warranty is created by law when you buy a consumer product from a merchant. There are two implied warranties:

  • Implied warranty of merchantability: This type of warranty applies to the appliance manufacturer and seller. When you buy an appliance, the manufacturer and seller “impliedly" guarantee that it is merchantable, which means that the product will work when used for its intended purpose.
  • Implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose: If the seller of an appliance knows why you want a product and that you're relying on their skill and judgment, there is an implied warranty that the appliance is fit for that purpose.

Suppose you coach a soccer team and are tasked with washing all the sports uniforms. You'd rather spend your time on other things, so you go to an appliance store and ask the seller for a large machine that could handle all of the uniforms at once. The seller may recommend a particular washer and dryer set. If you buy it based on that recommendation, it comes with an implied warranty of fitness for that purpose.

Disclaimers

Most warranties are subject to disclaimers. Appliance companies use disclaimers as a shield from liability.

When you buy an appliance, the manufacturer assumes certain obligations through its warranties. If it wants to eliminate or limit those obligations, it does so through disclaimers.

If you receive a written warranty, disclaimers won't block the implied warranty of merchantability. Federal law (the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act) prevents companies from escaping this key protection. The manufacturer can still limit the duration of the warranty, however.

How To Sue an Appliance Company for Breach of Warranty

Suppose you buy an appliance and turns out it won't work. You believe that the manufacturer and seller breached their warranties to you. What are your next steps?

Try To Work It Out

You may be able to file a lawsuit, but don't run to the courthouse just yet. Try to work it out with the seller and the manufacturer first. This option can resolve the issue faster and easier than court.

Contact the seller and explain what happened. They may be willing to repair or replace the product. You can also check the return policy. Retailers want to keep your business by giving you superb customer service.

If that doesn't work, contact the manufacturer. They have a reputation to protect and will likely work with you to ensure you are happy with your purchase. That may mean you get a new appliance or your money back.

Small Claims Court

If that doesn't work, court becomes your option. Most appliances cost a few hundred dollars. Your case would be appropriate for small claims court.

Small claims courts exist to handle claims that fall below an amount set by state law. That amount varies, but it can be as low as $2,500 and as high as $25,000, depending on your state.

The process is straightforward.

  • You pay a filing fee and file your written complaint
  • The appliance manufacturer pays a filing fee and files a response
  • A judge holds a hearing at which each side presents evidence and makes arguments
  • You get a court ruling

It's as simple as that.

You can handle many small claims matters on your own. Only some states will let you have a lawyer in small claims court, but you still may want to consult with one if you are concerned about representing yourself in court. They can help you better understand the process and give you confidence.

Property Damage

Suppose your defective appliance started a fire and burned your house down. Your loss would exceed the small claims court limit.

You would instead bring your case to a court that handles the larger amount. The power of a court to hear a case is its jurisdiction.

If you find yourself in a court with jurisdiction above the small claims limit, consider consulting a consumer protection attorney. Forming an attorney-client relationship with an experienced attorney would allow you to ask questions about your rights and help you develop confidence in your representation.

Scenario Two: Someone Was Injured (Product Liability)

Suppose the defective appliance hurt someone. Instead of a relatively straightforward breach of contract, your case becomes a more complicated product liability case. In general, product liability cases involve three legal theories: breach of warranty, strict liability, and negligence.

Breach of Warranty

The first theory is breach of warranty, which is the contract-based theory discussed above. The sale of a consumer product, such as an appliance, typically carries an implied warranty of merchantability, along with any written warranties the manufacturer may have included. If you can show the manufacturer breached its warranties, you can recover money for any injuries, including medical bills, you suffered due to the breach.

Strict Liability

The second theory is strict liability. Strict liability doesn't depend on the appliance manufacturer's intent or carelessness. To make out a strict liability claim, you need to show the following:

  • The appliance was defective
  • The defect made the appliance unreasonably dangerous
  • The defect caused your injuries

An appliance can be defective in three ways

  • Design Defect: The product's design may be unsafe for its intended use.
  • Manufacturing Defect: A mistake in the manufacturing process could make the product dangerous. 
  • Failure to Warn: The appliance may lack the warnings necessary to make it safe for its intended use. 

Any of these bases support a strict liability claim.

Negligence

Unlike strict liability, fault does matter if you want to bring a negligence claim. You have to show that the manufacturer or seller failed to use reasonable care in making and distributing the appliance. In other words, you have to show that they were careless.

Proving a negligence claim is often more complex than a breach of warranty or a strict liability claim. You need evidence of what a reasonable appliance manufacturer and seller would do in making and selling your appliance. You also need evidence relating to the manufacturer and seller's intent to show they were careless.

Damages

If you were injured, you may be able to receive damages. Damages are amounts of money intended to compensate you for your losses. In a product liability case, your damages may include money for the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning potential
  • Pain and suffering

In rare cases, you may be able to recover punitive damages. The goal of punitive damages isn't to compensate you for your losses. Instead, the court imposes them to punish a company for outrageous behavior and deter others from doing the same.

Act Quickly To Sue an Appliance Company

You have a limited amount of time to bring a lawsuit under the law, which varies from state to state. Depending on your claim, the cutoff may be as short as one year and as long as six years for personal injury cases.

You may want to talk to a lawyer in either of the two scenarios. If a defective appliance hurt you or someone you care about, consider getting legal advice from a product liability lawyer soon. They will be able to protect your legal rights. Many offer a free consultation, so you can get information at no cost.

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