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Bayliner Marine Corp. v. Crow

    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff brought suit against the seller and manufacturers of a fishing boat alleging that Defendants breached an express warranty and implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. Plaintiff claimed that the boat he was sold was significantly slower than what was allegedly represented to him.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Express warranties are created when the seller makes an affirmation of fact or a promise to the buyer which becomes part of the basis of the bargain, or when the seller makes a description of certain goods that becomes part of the basis of the bargain. All goods that are sold contain an implied warranty that such goods are merchantable.

    Facts. Plaintiff test drove an off-shore fishing boat, which was manufactured by Defendant Bayliner, with a sales representative from Defendant Tidewater. Plaintiff was unsure of how fast the boat was traveling during his test drive. In order to determine the potential speed of the boat, Plaintiff was given documents described as “prop matrixes” which were included by Defendant Bayliner in the owner’s manual. The “prop matrixes” described the boat as having the capacity to travel 30 miles per hour when equipped with size “20 x 20” or “20 x 19” propellers, when carrying approximately 600 lb. of passenger gear. Plaintiff was also delivered a brochure which stated that the type of boat in question delivers the “kind of performance you need to get to the prime offshore fishing grounds.”
    Plaintiff purchased the same model boat that he had test driven for $120,000, but the boat he purchased had a propeller size of “20 x 17” and had equipment installed that weighed over 2,000 lbs. Plaintiff’s boat traveled significantly slower than he expected, and eventually only achieved a maximum speed of 17 miles per hour. Plaintiff eventually received a letter from Defendant manufacturer that the maximum speed the boat could achieve was 23 to 25 mph.
    Plaintiff alleged that he was unable to use the boat because of the long distances needed to travel for offshore fishing, and that there was a major impact on the time left in the day for fishing due to the boat’s speed. Despite Plaintiff’s alleged problems with the boat he had recorded over 850 hours of engine usage during the first few years after he purchased it. Plaintiff brought suit against the manufacturers alleging breached express warranties and implied warranties of merchantability.
    The trial court awarded Plaintiff damages of $135,000, which included costs for storing, maintaining, insuring and financing the boat.

    Issue.
    Whether the representations made to Plaintiff in the prop matrixes and brochures were express warranties.
    Whether the boat’s failure to reach a maximum speed of 30 mph was a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability.

    Held.
    The Court held that express warranties are created when the seller makes an affirmation of fact or a promise to the buyer which becomes part of the basis of the bargain, or when the seller makes a description of certain goods that becomes part of the basis of the bargain. Mere opinions or commendations of a seller’s products are not express warranties. The Court ruled that since the statements contained in the prop matrixes were not express warranties about the performance capacity of the boat because the documents explicitly referred to a boat that carried less weight and had different propeller sizes than the one Plaintiff purchased. Further, the brochure which described the boat being one that “delivers the kind of performance you need to get to the prime offshore fishing grounds” was a simply a statement of opinion or commendation made by the seller, and that such statements are not, standing alone, express warranties.
    With respect to implied warranties, the Court held that the goods must “be such as would pass without objection in the trade and as are fit for the ordinary purpose for which such goods are used.” Despite the fact that Plaintiff was unable to use the boat for offshore fishing, the Court found no evidence from which to conclude that the boat generally was not merchantable as an offshore fishing boat.
    The Court held that Plaintiff failed to introduce evidence showing what the standard of merchantability in the offshore fishing trade was and whether a significant segment of the buying public would object to buying the goods.
    Nor did the evidence support the conclusion that the boat was not fit for its ordinary purpose as an offshore fishing boat, because Plaintiff had used the boat for 850 hours, and there was nothing in the record to indicate that boat’s which possess the speed capabilities that Plaintiff’s boat did are unacceptable as offshore fishing boats.
    Finally, the Court said there was no breach of an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. Such a warrant exists when seller has a 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. Plaintiff contended that particular purpose for which the boat was purchased for was to travel at speeds of 30 miles per hour. The Court disagreed and held that Plaintiff had failed to introduce evidence showing that he made this requirement known to the seller.

    Discussion. An express warranty for an item will exist where a seller makes an affirmation of fact or promise to the buyer which becomes part of the basis of the bargain. Mere opinions or puffery do not constitute express warranties. All goods that are sold also contain an implied warranty of merchantability, which means that such goods must pass without objection in the trade and as are fit for the ordinary purpose for which goods are used.


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