Torts II, Pages 771–773

Baxter v. Ford Motor Co. (1)

Supreme Court of Washington, 1932

Facts:

Plaintiff purchased a model A Ford from defendants. Defendant dealer had sale pamphlets made by defendant Ford that stated that the car had a shatter-proof windshield under the hardest impact. A few months later, a pebble from a passing car struck and shattered the windshield, destroying plaintiff's left eye and damaging his right.

Procedural History:

Trial court entered judgment for defendants.

Issue:

Should the promotional material have been admitted as evidence?

Defendant's Argument:

As Ford was not in privity of contract with plaintiff, it could not not have a warranty with him.

Rule:

LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoPage 772, Paragraph 5

[T]he manufacturer is liable to the consumer, even though the consumer purchased from a third person the commodity causing the damage. . . . on the principle that the original act of delivering an article is wrong, when, because of the lack of those qualities which the manufacturer represented it as having, the absence of which could not be readily detected by the consumer, the article is not safe for the purposes for which the consumer would ordinarily use it.

Reasoning:

An ordinary person could not discover whether the windshield was actually shatter-proof. He would be like one who buys a wrongly labeled drug—who is held liable despite not being in privity because the consumer must rely upon the manufacturer's representations.

Advertising is a major driver of sales today. It would be unjust to allow companies to advertise qualities their products did not possess without allowing a consumer to recover for such deceptions.

Holding:

The promotional material should have been admitted as evidence. Reversed and a new trial granted.

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