Court: Dealership liable for failure to find manufacturing error

A California automobile dealership may be held liable for its role in an injurious accident that left a victim paralyzed. The man suffered serious injury in the wreck because the dealership showed failure to warn the consumer about possible harm, according to a partial reinstatement of a product liability case. Judges have decided that the dealership, which delivered and inspected new vehicles for manufacturers, may be held liable in such cases even if workers there were not directly negligent.

The decision from a three-judge panel has massive implications for California dealerships that provide maintenance and distribution of vehicles. In this particular case, General Motors sold a truck to a federal organization through an existing account. The local dealership in Oxnard, California, was contracted to provide a pre-delivery inspection before transporting the vehicle to the federal agency’s facility. That federal agency then ended up selling the pickup truck at auction to the victim’s employer. The victim suffered serious injury months later, eight years after the initial purchase of the vehicle.

Inspection showed that the truck had been affected by a manufacturing defect that caused the near-fatal collision. The dealership had argued that it did not financially benefit from the truck’s sale, but an appeals court has allowed the victim and his wife to pursue civil claims against that business. Even though the dealership did not directly sell the truck, it was responsible for ensuring that the vehicle was safe for operation and free of manufacturing defects. Further, the dealership could have pressured the manufacturer to improve the safety of the trucks delivered to its establishment, according to the judges.

The decision rendered in this case could open additional options for liability for victims who have been injured because of a defective product, namely automobiles. Victims who have been injured because of an automobile design defect may benefit from a consultation with a qualified personal injury attorney, who can help them learn more about the implications of this decision on their individual cases.

Source: Autonotive News, “Court: Calif. store that inspected vehicle may be held liable for defect” Eric Freedman, Dec. 30, 2013