Redhibition is defined as “the nullification of sale because of a defect in the article sold of such nature as to make it totally or virtually unusable or as to have prevented the purchase if known to the buyer.” An automobile redhibition case involves some hidden defect in the car that, if the purchaser would have known about it, would make it likely that the purchaser would not have bought it. For example, the fact that the car does not run at all, would likely be a reason that a purchaser would not want to buy the car. A defect such as this would allow the buyer to get their money back for the sale or, at least, a reduction in the purchase price.
The theories stated above apply to used vehicles as well as new ones. In 2007, a couple bought a car from Ford that, although was used, was certified to be in good condition. However, shortly after the purchase the couple noticed significant water leaks in the vehicle. At first, they thought the moon roof was just left open. Gradually, they realized that that was not the case.
In fact, the leaks got so bad that the couple was forced to put towels on the seat, put a plastic bag over the driver’s legs, and vacuum the water out of the car frequently. Finally, the mildew odor got so bad that they had to get a replacement vehicle. After several attempts at repairs, the couple was informed that the leaks could not be fixed. They hired an attorney and brought the suit for redhibition in the Pineville City Court.
In order to have a claim against Ford, the couple needed to prove that the defect existed at the time of manufacture, and did not develop later. As the car manufacturer, Ford is presumed to have knowledge of the defects of the products that it manufactures. In this case, Ford attempted to argue that the leaking problems were likely caused by poor maintenance and a failure to clean out the drainage tubes in the vehicle. However, the court scoffed at this argument and pointed out that the couple had the entire front end of the car removed, cleaned, repaired, and put back on. Nonetheless, the leaking continued.
The couple pointed out that the Technical Service Bulletin, a publication that describes defects in vehicles and how maintenance personnel can handle them, stated that water leaks in that type of vehicle could occur due to a roof-opening panel. This bulletin explained that there were serious manufacturing flaws in the moon roof drainage system in some of the Ford vehicles, the couple’s vehicle included. Ford argued that this bulletin did not assume that their particular vehicle had problems. However, the court took the bulletin into significant consideration.
Lastly, Ford argued that if there were a manufacturing problem, then the previous owners would have noticed the problem and reported it. The previous owner made no such complaint. However, since Ford had no documentation or direct proof that the previous owners were not having problems, the court disregarded this argument as well.
The court found that the couple met the qualifications for proving that the defect was caused by manufacture and not by any fault of their own. Had they known about the defects, they likely would not have purchased the vehicle. Therefore, the court awarded the purchase price of the vehicle and other fees to the couple.
Manufacturing defects are not always easy to detect. It is important that you make a thorough inspection of your vehicle and report any defects. You should not have to pay for a defective product.
If you think you may have legal issues regarding a defective product, contact The Bernard Law Firm toll free at 1-866-574-8005 and we will be happy to discuss your legal options.