Hawaiian law protects consumers by making merchant sellers of a product liable to all consumers and users injured if a product fails to meet its express warranties. HRS § 490:2-313 explains, an express warranty is any affirmation, promises, description of the good, samples or models which is made part of the basis of the bargain creates an express warranty. Keep in mind that it is not necessary that the seller use formal words such as “warrant” or “guarantee” or that he have a specific intention to make a warranty but an affirmation merely of the value of the goods or a statement purporting to be merely the seller’s opinion or commendation of the goods does not create a warranty. For instance, a seller saying that a particular product is the best in the market would be considered an opinion and not a warranty. But, if a seller says that an air-conditioning unit will last for 10 years, this would be considered a warranty even if the word “warranty” isn’t used.
In Torres, the Supreme Court ruled that; any description of the goods, other than the seller’s mere opinion about the product, constitutes part of the basis of the bargain and is therefore an express warranty, a description made by the seller of the product is not the seller’s mere opinion about the product, constitutes part of the basis of the bargain and is therefore an express warranty and the burner of disproving this is on the seller. Torres v. Northwest Eng’g Co., 86 Haw. 383 (Haw. Ct. App. 1997) Defendant Northwest co. sold a crane equipped with 24 inch-wide steel treads instead of the 30 inch-wide steel treads as agreed. Fernando Torres was operating the crane as per his job, harvesting sugarcane for Wailuku Co. the steel tread broke causing the crane to collapse and Torres death. His wife and daughter brought a claim against Northwest Co. The Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled in favor of Torres and further explained Northwest had indeed breached express warranty because even though Wailuku Co. when purchasing the crane didn’t relied on the 30 inch width of the crane’s treads as part of the “basis of its bargain” with Northwest to purchase the Northwest Model 41 crane.
This presumption that a seller’s statement becomes a part of the basis of the bargain can be overcome by actual knowledge or when the buyer has the opportunity to inspect the goods. For example, “the buyer’s actual knowledge of the true condition of the goods prior to the making of the contract may make it plain that the seller’s statement was not relied upon as one of the inducements for the purchase” Keith v. Buchanan, 220 Cal. Rptr. Similarly, “where the buyer inspects the goods before purchase, he [or she] may be deemed to have waived the seller’s express warranties.” Id.
Finally, a seller’s statement will not be given effect where “it could not have been part of the basis of the bargain because the buyer knew the statement to be false or was not influenced by it,” or when the statement was not even made until after the sale. Am. Jur. 2d Sales § 725,(1985). For example, an advertisement is not usually regarded “as being made ‘during a bargain.” J. White, Uniform Commercial Code § 9-5, at 495 (4th ed. 1995). A plaintiff claiming a breach of express warranty based on an advertisement contained in a catalogue or brochure would normally have to prove, at a minimum, that he or she read, or at least was aware of, the catalogue or brochure. Interco, Inc. v. Randustrial Corp., 533 S.W.2d 257 (Mo. App. 1976) (holding that although no particular reliance on an express warranty contained in a seller’s sales catalogue was necessary for recovery for breach of warranty, the sales catalogue must at least have been read to constitute an express warranty). The UCC “permits a seller a certain amount of leeway in making statements that exaggerate the value or quality of goods offered for sale.” 67A Am. Jur. 2d Sales § 732 at 98 (1985). Specifically, HRS § 490:2-313(2) provides that “an affirmation merely of the value of the goods or a statement purporting to be merely the seller’s opinion or commendation of the goods does not create a warranty.”
The overarching principle of the Express Warranty protection is to determine what it is that the seller has in essence agreed to sell even if the buyer didn’t rely on seller’s statement in purchasing particular goods but not to punish a seller for what they did not guarantee. Torres v. Northwest Eng’g Co., 86 Haw. 383 (Haw. Ct. App. 1997)
Statute of limitation
In Larsen v. Pacesetter Systems, Inc., the Supreme Court held that the UCC statute of limitations applied to both a breach of implied and express warranty claims.
An action for breach of any contract for sale must be commenced within four years after the cause of action has accrued. By the original agreement the parties may reduce the period of limitation to not less than one year but may not extend it.
A cause of action accrues when the breach occurs, regardless of the aggrieved party’s lack of knowledge of the breach. A breach of warranty occurs when tender of delivery is made, except that where a warranty explicitly extends to future performance of the goods and discovery of the breach must await the time of such performance the cause of action accrues when the breach is or should have been discovered.