Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Alabama Supreme Court Rejects Sealed Container Defense as to Reatilers in Breach of Warranty Claims

A recent Alabama Supreme Court decision answered a certified question from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in the case of Sparks v. Total Body Essential Nutrition Inc., Wright Enrichment, Inc. & TexAmerican Food Blending, Inc.

After the District Court concluded that it was not clear under Alabama law whether claims alleging the breach of the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose are subject to the defense of the sealed-container doctrine, the Supreme Court held that they were not. See the opinion here.

The majority said:

"We answer the certified question in the affirmative and hold that the sealed-container defense is not available to the retail seller of food products in claims asserting a breach of implied warranty under the UCC."

This case aligns Alabama law with the majority of states which have interpreted this issue, including Georgia and Florida, and is also significant in that it will prevent the continued removal of such cases (which involve in-state retailers) from being removed from state to federal court under a fraudulent joinder theory.

The sealed container defense previously allowed retailers who purchased their products from manufacturers in a pre-packaged, sealed container, to avoid liability for defects in products which the retailer did not contribute to or could not have reasonably discovered.

Chris Hellums is co-lead counsel of the Executive Committee to the Personal Injury Plaintiff's Steering Committee for the Total Body Multi-District Litigation.

See here: http://chrishellums.blogspot.com/2009/05/lawyer-chris-hellums-appointed-as-co.html

Pittman Dutton Kirby & Hellums is currently representing clients in various claims against Total Body.

Chris can be reached at Chrish@PDKHlaw.com or Pittman Dutton Kirby & Hellums at http://www.pdkhlaw.com/.

Total Body FDA Warnings & Articles:

Food & Drug Administration Warnings : http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm050806.htm

200 Injured by Total Body : http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,405361,00.html