The Louisiana Civil Code provides an implied warranty for all things sold. Specifically, a seller warrants the buyer against all redhibitory vices and defects. A defect is “redhibitory” if it renders the item so useless or inconvenient that a buyer would not have purchased it or would have purchased it for a lesser price. Louisiana does not have warranty statutes which are specific to marine products. The following outline is an overview of Louisiana’s warranty statutes in connection with marine products such as boats, personal watercraft, and outboard motors.
A. Marine Product Warranty Statutes
Louisiana does not have warranty statutes which are specific to marine products.
B. General Warranty Statutes
The Louisiana Civil Code provides an implied warranty, “redhibition”, for all things sold. Specifically, a seller warrants the buyer against all redhibitory vices and defects. A defect is “redhibitory” if it renders the item so useless or inconvenient that a buyer would not have purchased it or would have purchased it for a lesser price. (La. C.C. art. 2520). The defect is not redhibitory, if it was disclosed to the buyer or should have been discovered by reasonably prudent buyer. (La. C.C. art. 2521). The defect must exist at the time of delivery of the thing, but is presumed to have existed if the defect appears within three days of delivery. (La. C.C. art. 2530). Additionally, a thing must be reasonably fit for its intended use; and it must be of the particular kind or quality if such was specified in the sale. (La. C.C. arts. 2524 and 2529).
Typically, a buyer is required to give notice to a seller of a discovered defect, and permit the seller an opportunity to repair the defect; however, this notice is not required when the seller had actual notice of the defect. (La. C.C. art. 2522). Unfortunately, by law, a manufacture is deemed to have known of the defect. (La. C.C. art. 2545).
The buyer has a choice of remedies which includes full rescission of the sale or merely a reduction in the purchase price. (La. C.C. art. 2541). A manufacturer—a seller deemed by law to know of the defect—is liable for the return of the purchase price with interest from the date paid, reimbursement of the reasonable expenses of the sale and preservation of the thing, damages and attorney fees, minus a credit for any value the buyer received from use of the thing. (La. C.C. art. 2545).
The implied warranty of redhibition may be excluded or limited by agreement, but it must be clear and unambiguous and brought to the attention of the buyer. (La. C.C. art. 2548). The exclusion will not apply if the claim is that the thing was not of the quality declared in the sale. Moreover, despite a valid exclusion with the seller, the buyer may step into the warranty rights his/her seller may have against others.
A seller who is held liable for a defect has an action against the manufacturer of the defective thing, if the defect existed at the time the thing was delivered by the manufacturer to the seller. (La. C.C. art. 2531). The manufacturer cannot eliminate this obligation by contract. (Id.; see also La. R.S. 32:1621.1, providing that a manufacturer must hold harmless and indemnify its franchised dealers).
Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations is called “prescription” under Louisiana’s Civil Code. The prescriptive period against a manufacturer—a seller deemed by law to know of the defect—is one year from the date the defect is discovered. The prescriptive period against good faith sellers is four years from delivery of the thing or one year from the date the defect is discovered, whichever occurs first.
Recoverable Attorneys’ Fees: A manufacturer—a seller deemed by law to know of the defect—is liable for reasonable attorney fees. (La. C.C. art. 2545).
C. Lemon Law
For the most part, Louisiana’s “Lemon Law,” La. R.S. 51:1941, et seq., does not apply to boats or marine products. However, the Lemon Law does apply to a “personal watercraft” which is sold in Louisiana which is used exclusively for personal and not commercial purposes. “Personal watercraft” means a vessel which uses an inboard motor powering a water jet pump as its primary source of motive power and which is designed to be operated by a person sitting, standing, or kneeling on the vessel, rather than the conventional manner of sitting or standing inside the vessel (La. R.S. 34:855.2).
If a manufacturer has established an informal dispute settlement procedure which substantially complies with the provisions of Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the provisions of the Lemon Law concerning refunds or replacement will not apply to any consumer who has not first resorted to such procedure. (La. R.S. 51:1944(D)).
Statute of Limitations: The consumer has no more than three years from the date he purchased the personal watercraft or until one year from the end of the warranty period, whichever is longer, in which to file suit against the manufacturer. (La. R.S. 51:1944(E)).
Recoverable Attorneys’ Fees: If the consumer has complied with the requirements of the Lemon Law, the consumer shall be entitled to reasonable attorney fees actually incurred if a judgment is rendered in part or whole in his favor. (La. R.S. 51:1947).
D. Warranty Reimbursement Rate Statute
Unless provided otherwise in the contract between the manufacturer and the dealer, “in no event shall any manufacturer or distributor pay its dealers at a price or rate for warranty work that is less than that charged by the dealer to the retail customers of the dealer for nonwarranty work of like kind.” La. R.S. 32:1262.
E. Louisiana Consumer Protection Act
Louisiana’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, La. R.S. 51:1401, et seq., creates a cause of action for unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce. If the court finds practices were knowingly used, after being put on notice by the attorney general, the court shall award three times the actual damages sustained. (La. R.S. 51:1409(A)).
Statute of Limitations: The private action prescribes one year from the time of the transaction or act which gave rise to the action. (La. R.S. 51:1409(E)).
Recoverable Attorneys’ Fees: The person bringing a private action is entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs. However, if the court finds that an action under this section was groundless and brought in bad faith or for purposes of harassment, the court may award to the defendant reasonable attorney fees and costs. (La. R.S. 51:1409(A)).
Mr. Jalenak’s practice includes products liability defense, products warranty defense, and the representation of recreational product manufacturers in dealer disputes.