“Merchantable” typically means that a good or product must meet the standards of commercial acceptability, making it fit for purchase or sale.
Criteria for Merchantability in Florida
Section 672.314 of the Florida Statutes outlines the criteria for goods to be deemed merchantable:
(a) Must be readily accepted within the trade under the contracted description.
(b) For fungible goods, they should be of average quality as expected within the description.
(c) Should be suitable for their usual and customary purposes.
(d) Must conform, within the agreed-upon variations, to an even kind, quality, and quantity within each unit and across all units. (e) Need to be adequately contained, packaged, and labeled as stipulated in the agreement. (f) Must align with any promises or factual assertions made on the container or label, if applicable.
Standards of Minimal Quality
Under Section 672.314 of the Florida Statutes, the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals have held that “[t]he tests of merchantability [set forth in section 672.314] are standards of minimal quality measured in accordance with the standards of the trade.” Royal Typewriter Co., a Div. of Litton Bus. Sys., Inc. v. Xerographic Supplies Corp., 719 F.2d 1092, 1099 (11th Cir. 1983) (applying Florida law).
Even in cases where a product can partially fulfill its intended function, if it does so while posing a significant safety risk, it constitutes a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. See Weiss v. General Motors LLC, 418 F. Supp. 1173 (S.D. Fla. 2019).
The Weiss Case: Significant Safety Concerns
In the Weiss case, the plaintiff filed a claim for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability concerning a flawed driveline in a vehicle, resulting in severe and unsettling vibrations in the vehicle’s operation. Id. at 1178. The defendant contended that the plaintiff’s failure to assert that the vehicle was unmerchantable was based on the plaintiff’s continued operation of the vehicle, as cars are generally considered suitable for their standard purpose of transportation. See id. at 1183.
Court Ruling and Implications
The court ruled against the defendant, concluding that the plaintiff’s claims regarding the vehicle’s vibration at 70 mph, and the potential classification of this issue as a “significant safety concern” if substantiated, would demonstrate that the [defect] impacts the car’s drivability. Id. at 1183-84. The court ultimately held that “at [the motion to dismiss] stage of the proceedings, that is all that is required,” and denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. Id. at 1184.
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