Can I Sue a Home Supply Store for Bad Products or Bad Advice?
There are a few ways you can sue a home supply store if they sold you bad products or gave you bad advice. You could potentially sue them for product liability, negligence, and breach of a warranty contract.
You should talk to a product liability lawyer if:
- The store sold you defective merchandise; or
- You suffered personal injuries from a defective product; or
- You received bad advice or instructions from a retailer, resulting in serious injuries; or
- The store is not honoring its product warranty or return policy.
Product Liability Cases
When a defective product causes harm to you, you can potentially sue everyone involved in its chain of distribution. That includes the home supply store, which can be strictly liable for the products that it sold to you.
Strict liability means that if the defective merchandise caused your injuries, a court will find the store responsible irrespective of whether they acted carelessly or negligently in selling you the bad item.
Thanks to state consumer protection laws, most states have strict product liability statutes that protect consumers against sellers of faulty products. State laws can vary on the elements, but in general, a product liability lawsuit will claim:
- a product sold by the home supply store,
- found to be defective,
- that injured you,
- in the course of its intended use, and
- the defect was the direct and foreseeable cause (causation) of your injury.
The types of product defects recognized under the law include:
- Design defect — poorly-designed product
- Manufacturing defect — defect in the product manufacturing process
- Warnings — poor or missing product labeling and safety instructions
For example, if you bought a lawnmower that exploded on first use, you may sue the store for product liability. You will claim that the product was defective because it exploded as soon as you turned it on, even though you properly followed all safety instructions and didn't do anything wrong to cause the explosion.
Here, as long as the instructions that came with the lawnmower were adequate, your product liability claim would mainly rely on showing a defect in the design or manufacturing process. Since you operated the product correctly and it still exploded, chances are that it was defective.
Breach of Warranties in Product Liability Cases
There is a general understanding under product liability law that a consumer product will perform or meet a standard for which it is intended. All things being equal, a lawnmower is expected to be able to mow the lawn. This "expectation" is required under three separate kinds of warranties that you can sue under:
An express warranty is when a seller overtly promises that their product will perform. A home supply store might have a contract or sales policy that provides customers with a set period during which they can return, replace, or obtain repairs for the product at no cost as long as it didn't break through the buyer's fault.
The implied warranty of merchantability is an inferred understanding under the law that the product is "merchantable", or fit for the purpose it's sold. In other words, the home supply store can't get away with design, manufacturing, or labeling defects because the lawnmower must be implicitly fit to mow the lawn.
Finally, the implied warranty of fitness requires that a seller's product be appropriate for its understood or promised use even if it's not defective. That is, if the home supply store tells you that the lawn mower will mow every kind of grass that grows in your town, it better do the job whether you're mowing sweet St. Augustine or firm Fescue as long as those are the varieties of lawn that grow in your locality. If it fails even on just one type of grass in town, the store is in breach for promising otherwise.
Negligence (For Bad Advice)
As long as your state allows you to sue under strict liability, you won't have to sue for negligence for the reasons explained above.
But what if it's not the bad products that harmed you, but rather, the bad advice the home supply store gave you?
For example, if the store employee told you to put alcohol in the lawnmower instead of the appropriate gas fuel, that may have been the reason it exploded.
The store might argue that alcohol is a good fuel substitute because it's flammable. But it doesn't matter if they thought the alcohol would help your lawnmower run better—they're responsible for giving bad advice even if they had good intentions, because they put your safety at risk.
Here, your lawsuit for negligence against the store, you'll claim:
- They had a duty to make sure their employees provide proper advice — you reasonably trusted them to know how to operate the product they were selling you when they gave you advice about it;
- They breached that duty by giving you bad advice — the employee's suggestion to use alcohol instead of gasoline may have been in good faith, but clearly wasn't good advice if it wasn't safe advice;
- Their breach caused injuries to you — the lawnmower exploded as soon as you turned it on because of the alcohol inside it, and you suffered lacerations to your person; and
- You have suffered damages, such as pain and suffering and medical bills for your lacerations.
Breach of Contract Lawsuits
If the store has a warranty or return policy, then their failure to honor either of these two policies would be a violation of the store's agreement with you. To sue a store for violating its warranty policy or product return agreement, you can sue them for breach of contract. You'll need to show:
- A valid contract existed between you and the home supply store;
- You held up (performed) your side of the deal by paying for the lawnmower and meeting the requirements of the warranty policy or return period;
- The store failed to honor (breached) their part of the deal because they didn't accept your timely return of the lawnmower, or they didn't reimburse you under the warranty they promised you under contract;
- You suffered damages — what you paid for the lawnmower — as a result of the store's failure to honor the warranty or return policy contract.
A breach of contract claim will usually be accompanied by a separate breach of warranty claim, which is tailored specifically for use against sellers of bad products. A breach of warranty claim will involve:
- The existence of an express or implied warranty;
- A product that does not comply with that warranty, and
- Your injuries as a result of the store's failure to comply.
As already discussed earlier in this article, an express warranty is usually written out or verbalized to you by the store. An implied warranty, on the other hand, is recognized under the law for most products above a certain value.
Get Help With Your Case
A product liability lawyer will be able to help you file your case within the time limits provided under the law of your state.
Because products liability lawyers work under the branch of personal injury law, they are experienced in filing claims with insurance companies to help you recover for your defective products injury claim. This means you might not have to pay any attorney's fees up-front until they've secured an insurance payout for you.
Speaking with an attorney is also helpful in determining whether you can file a consumer complaint with your state's attorney general regarding defective consumer products.
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