WHAT IS A “PRODUCTS LIABILITY ACTION”?

vRide, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co.
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-15-01377-CV (February 2, 2017)
Justices Bridges, Lang-Miers (Opinion linked here), and Stoddart
James Cernosek was riding as a passenger in a Ford van leased from vRide when he was hit by a drunk driver and severely injured. Cernosek and his wife sued Ford and the drunk driver and settled with both. They then sued vRide, alleging that vRide had promised to put “Safety First” and to provide only vehicles with certain safety features, including side-curtain or side-canopy airbags and state-of-the-art safety systems. vRide sued Ford for indemnity under Chapter 82 of the CPRC, which creates a duty for manufacturers to indemnify sellers for products liability actions.

Ford denied any duty to indemnify, arguing the case against vRide was one for negligent misrepresentation, not products liability, and both the trial court and the Dallas Court of Appeals agreed. A products liability action is one in which the plaintiff alleges a product contained a defect, was unreasonably dangerous, or presented an unreasonable risk of harm. Plaintiffs here alleged that vRide “misrepresented the presence of safety features on the vehicles it provides in its lease programs and promised that its vehicles had certain safety features when they did not.” The Court noted that the Cernoseks would not have to prove the van was defective, only that it was not what vRide promised. So it was not a products liability action, and Ford had no duty to indemnify vRide. The Court, therefore, affirmed summary judgment in favor of Ford and against vRide.

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