Manufacturers and sellers of consumer products make certain unwritten promises about those products. These promises are known as implied warranties. In essence, these warranties mean that the consumer can purchase the item with the assurances from the manufacturer and seller that the product is safe and designed properly for consumers to use in the way that the designer intended. But, what about all those disclaimers on consumer products, what effect do they have on the buyer’s implied warranties?
Californians who have purchased any kind of consumer product, whether it be a cellular phone, a household cleaning product or a children’s toy, has probably seen one of these product disclaimers before. Usually, disclaimers say that the company makes no claims about the safety and performance of their product, and that it accepts no liability if the product fails.
Although product disclaimers are very common, that does not mean they are legally binding. The law generally holds manufacturers accountable to the implied warranties about their products because the consumer does not really have an opportunity to bargain away those warranties. The implied warranty that the product is safe for its intended use, for example, is not a point that the buyer can really consider and accept or reject at the time of purchase. Thus, a company cannot simply absolve itself of any responsibility for the safety of the product by including a disclaimer on the packaging.
If a person suffers an injury from an unsafe product, the victim can file a product liability cause of action against various parties that were involved in getting that product into the consumer’s hands. This is true, regardless of any safety disclaimer that may have been included with the product.
Not every product disclaimer is the same, and some may have limited legal effect based on the particular circumstances of the situation. But, in general, disclaimers do not give manufacturers and sellers a free pass, if their negligence caused a person to get hurt while using their product.