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Gadsden, Alabama

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Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts
Attorney • (256) 543-0400

New Product Liability Decision Addresses Retailer Warranty Liability

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A July 17 Alabama Supreme Court decision, by a vote of 5 to 4 of its 9 justices, decided that the retailer or seller of a dietary supplement does not have an automatic "sealed container" defense that would absolve it from liability for breach of an implied warranty of merchantability. In Sparks v Total Body Nutrition, Inc., a product liability case, the court answered questions about Alabama law posed by a federal court. The Uniform Commercial Code, enacted by the Alabama legislature over 40 years ago, provides that, generally, products or goods sold by business must at least be fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are to be used. In this case, the company that sold the supplement argued that it would not have known whether the manufacturer from whom it obtained the product shipped was in a defective condition and it should not be responsible for selling it. The majority opinion said that the recourse of the seller would be it’s asserting a claim against the company from whom it obtained the product, rather than absolution.

This decision is sensible and represents a commendable result in the interest of consumer protection. For further discussion of product liability law, see Chapter 19 of the book, Alabama Tort Law.