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Trial lawyers specializing in personal injury and civil litigation

No implied warranty claims against retailers for Michigan injury victims

Robert Curry was badly hurt when he fell from his tree stand while hunting.  He claimed that the stand was defective and collapsed with him on it.  Curry sued Meijer, Inc., the seller of the stand, and ultimately joined the distributors, as well.  The manufacturer was out of business and defunct.  The trial court dismissed Curry's claim on the grounds that after tort "reform" a Michigan injury victim cannot sue a retailer  or distributor for a defective product unless the victim proves actual negligence by the defendant or a breach of express warranty.  You have probably noticed that retailers don't ever make express guarantees about the quality or safety of their inventory. 

On appeal, the Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of Curry's claim, finding that injury victims no longer have a cause of action for implied warranty against a retailer of a defective product:  the "reforms" of 1996 did away with these claims.  With much of our commerce now originating in China--where product liability claims don't exist, and where most products are manufactured by government-owned companies which will not respond to U.S. product liability claims--this leaves Michigan consumers without any recourse for defective products.   The appellate court accurately pointed out that this public policy issue should be raised with the Legislature, rather than a court. 

Unfortunately, the legislation also places Michigan manufacturers at a disavantage, as they must buy product liability insurance that their [foreign] competitors do not need.  If retailers remained responsible for defective products, they would be well-advised to choose the safest products, rather than the cheapest; they would also be inclined to force foreign manufacturers to purchase and provide them with indemnity coverage for defective products.  As matters stand currently, large retailers like Meijer need not even pay lip service to the quality or reliability of their inventory or suppliers.   A recent article in the Michigan Journal of Law Reform called for reevaluation of this statute under the circumstances.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262