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Turner v. International Harvester Co.

March 7, 1975


Dreier, J.d.c., Temporarily Assigned.


Defendant Hall & Fuhs, Inc. has moved for summary judgment in this product liability case. The motion shall be granted in part and denied in part for the reasons following.

On or about December 2, 1969 plaintiff's decedent, Thomas W. Turner, acquired a 1967 IHC tractor-truck manufactured by defendant International Harvester Company. There is an issue in the case whether the truck was purchased from defendant Hall & Fuhs, Inc., as set forth in an agreement of sale (Hall & Fuhs, Inc. as the "seller" and

Turner as the "buyer"), or whether the truck was in fact purchased from Turner's friend, one Richard W. Carman, or his corporation R.W. Carman, Inc. According to the affidavit of Carman filed in opposition to the motion the truck in question had been traded in by him on a new truck purchased from Hall & Fuhs, Inc. in or about October 1969, and the used truck was delivered to Hall & Fuhs, Inc's place of business during the first week in October 1969. He further alleges that at no time was the truck delivered directly from Carman or his company to Turner. Since this court is enjoined by R. 4:46-2 and the cases interpreting the rule to grant summary judgment only when there is no issue of a material fact, and to grant all favorable inferences to the party opposing such motion, it will be assumed for the purpose of this motion that the truck in question was purchased from Hall & Fuhs, Inc. Judson v. Peoples Bank & Trust Co. of Westfield, 17 N.J. 67 (1954).

The truck was of the type where the engine is located beneath the cab; to work on the engine the cab must be raised and propped or counter-balanced. Two years and four days after taking delivery of the truck, that is, on or about December 6, 1971, plaintiff's decedent was working on the engine. While he was under the cab (which was in its raised position) the cab suddenly collapsed and fell upon him. He died from the ensuing injury. Plaintiff, his widow, sues on behalf of herself and their children for the death on the theories of (a) strict liability, (b) negligence and (c) breach of warranty.

The bill rendered by Hall & Fuhs, Inc. to plaintiff's decedent for the truck in question stated that the sale encompassed:


One (1) used 1967 IHC model CO4000D Serial G226064

The price was $14,000 plus sales tax.

The summary judgment motion of defendant Hall & Fuhs, Inc. is based upon two theories. First, that the designation

of the sale "as is" in the sale of a used vehicle precludes any claim alleging a defective product; second, the relationship between the parties was that of financing agent and purchaser from a third party and not that of seller and buyer. With respect to the second basis, as noted above this court has determined that the contract and supporting documents (installment sale and security agreement, bill, etc.) signed or issued by Hall & Fuhs, Inc. designate it as the "seller." A sufficient issue of fact is thus raised as to the status of the parties that summary judgment would be improper here on that basis. Therefore, the real questions on this motion are the effect of the sale of used goods and of the words "as is" upon the three causes of action alleged by plaintiff.


We will first consider the third claim, that of breach of warranty, for it is the easiest to dispose of. The Uniform Commercial Code in N.J.S.A. 12A:2-316 covers the subject of exclusion or modification of warranties. One subsection reads as follows:

(2) Subject to subsection (3), to exclude or modify the implied warranty of merchantability or any part of it the language must mention merchantability and in case of a writing must be conspicuous, and to exclude or modify any implied warranty of fitness the exclusion must be by a writing and conspicuous. Language to exclude all implied warranties of fitness is sufficient if it states, for example, that "There are no warranties which extend beyond the description on the face hereof."

The next subsection, however, covers the situation now before the court and states:

(3) Notwithstanding subsection (2)

(a) unless the circumstances indicate otherwise, all implied warranties are excluded by expressions like "as is", "with all faults" or other language which in common understanding calls the buyer's attention to the exclusion of warranties and makes plain that there is no implied warranty; and * * *

Circumstances here did not indicate other than the normal statutory exclusion of warranties. The New Jersey Study Comment number 3, citing prior New Jersey case law, shows that this section merely restated the then existing law of the State as of the date the Code was enacted. It therefore appears that plaintiff's claim for breach of ...

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