Saturday, November 07, 2009
Used car dealers now must inspect even "as-is" cars for sale for "patent" safety defects. Wilke v. Woodhouse Ford, S-08-807, 278 Neb. 800 The Nebraska Supreme Court holds "patent" defects the responsibility of the dealer, such as steering and brakes, but in this case the defect was the loose play in the gearshift that allowed a child to take the parked car out of park. "Applying our risk-utility test for the existence of a legal duty to use reasonable care, we conclude that there is a relatively great magnitude of risk of injury in the circumstance where an unknowing buyer drives off the dealer’s lot in a used vehicle which has a patent safety defect, such as defective brakes or steering. " "a commercial dealer of used vehicles intended for use on public streets and highways has a duty to conduct a reasonable inspection of the vehicle prior to sale in order to determine whether there are any patent defects existing at the time of sale which would make the vehicle unsafe for ordinary operation and, upon discovery of such a defect, to either repair it or warn a prospective purchaser of its existence. The dealer has no duty to disassemble the vehicle to discover latent defects or to anticipate the future development of safety defects which do not exist at the time of sale. The tort duty we recognize today is not affected by a valid disclaimer or exclusion of U.C.C. warranties, because such contractual provisions do not absolve a seller from exercising reasonable care to prevent foreseeable harm."