DBTC Law Firm

“Good condition” is not a reliable warranty; “right to return for purchase price” is.

One would think when purchasing anything from an automobile to an appliance to equipment, that the assurances of the seller that the item is in “good and reliable” condition would be an effective warranty protecting the buyer. It is not. Make sure you get a written promise to return it for your purchase price if not satisfied.

The Arkansas Court of Appeals decided on November 9, 2016, the case of Epley vs. Gibson Auto Sales, 2016 Ark. App. 540. In that case, Ms. Epley bought a car from a used car dealer, Mr. Gibson. Mr. Gibson admitted that he told her the car was in good condition. After trying to drive it and dealing with multiple problems and repairs for over a year, she returned the car, claiming a breach of its warranty that it was in good condition. Testifying in her behalf was the person who had traded the car to the dealership, who said he had advised Mr. Gibson that in the car’s 110,000 miles, it had a long history of repairs and damage and, in the owner’s opinion, the car should be scrapped and used for parts. None of this, of course, was shared with Ms. Epley who instead was told by the dealer that the car was in “good condition.”

The Court found the assurance that the car was in “good” condition was a subjective term subject to interpretation by individuals as to exactly what that meant, and thus not a firm warranty. It was in the realm of permissible “puffing,” rather than an objective guarantee. In so ruling, it is now the law in Arkansas that any assurance that something is in “good” condition is for all legal and practical purposes, a legally worthless assurance.

Fortunately, the Court found that an oral promise had also been made that the car could be returned for the purchase price if the buyer was dissatisfied, so the disappointed new owner was afforded relief. It is always a dangerous thing to rely on an oral promise; though oral promises are usually “legal,” they can be very difficult to prove with certainty. The moral of this story is, ignore any assurances that some used property you are buying is in “good” condition, and get the written assurance of the seller that if you are not satisfied for any reason, you can return it for your purchase price.

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