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New Jersey Appellate Division Holds ATV Helmet Retailer Did Not Create Express Warranty By Touting Helmet As “One of the Best”

Blogs, Product Liability

Last week, the New Jersey Appellate Division held a product seller’s representations that a helmet was “great,” and a “top seller” did not create an express warranty that would confer rights on behalf of the purchaser when the helmet failed to prevent her from being injured in an ATV accident. Wojcik v. Burger’s Motorcycle Sales and Service, Inc., 2010 WL 322893 (N.J. App. Div. Jan. 29, 2010).

Plaintiff, an inexperienced ATV operator, purchased two brand-new ATV’s from the retailer and sought the retailer’s guidance in purchasing a helmet. The retailer produced a helmet which it claimed was “one of the best,” and that it “could protect [her] completely.” Plaintiff also was allegedly told that the helmet was “top-rated,” and was a “top seller.” Plaintiff purchased the helmet and was wearing it when the ATV flipped, causing injuries to her face and chin when the helmet’s chin bar bent on impact during the accident. 

Plaintiff sued the retailer, alleging that its statements in support of the helmet rose to the level of creating an express warranty. The trial court disagreed and granted summary judgment, holding that the retailer’s statements constituted opinion or commendation of the product, and did not create an express warranty. The trial court also held that even if the retailer’s statements constituted an express warranty, the plaintiff had failed to show that the breach of the warranty caused the resulting injuries. (The plaintiff’s product liability claims against the rest of the defendants were dismissed on the grounds that plaintiff’s expert’s opinion concluding that the helmet was defective constituted “textbook net opinion.”)

The Appellate Division held that the retailer’s statements touting the helmet as “one of the best” and “great” constituted opinions, and did not create an express warranty. Similarly, its statements that the helmet was “top-rated” and a “top seller,” constituted only statements of value or commendation. The Appellate Division noted that a statement that the helmet could “protect [plaintiff] completely” could have been found by a reasonable jury to constitute an express warranty. Nonetheless, as the plaintiff’s expert had failed to establish any defect in the helmet, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment, holding the plaintiff had failed to establish breach or causation. The Appellate Division noted that “a showing that plaintiff suffered facial injuries while wearing the helmet and that the chin bar may have been bent are insufficient to establish a breach of an express warranty.”