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Appeals court orders more proceedings in pulley lawsuit

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Finding the trial court shouldn’t have granted summary judgment in favor of a distributor on a buyer’s claim of breach of implied warranty of merchantability regarding pulleys provided by the distributor, the Indiana Court of Appeals remanded to the trial court to take another look at the issue.

Gared Holdings LLC decided to buy pulleys for basketball goals it manufactures from Best Bolt Products Inc. after it had some issues with its current supplier of the pulleys and learned the price of the pulleys would increase. Best Bolt is a distributor of bolts, screws and miscellaneous hardware products, but had never sold pulleys. Gared did not specify to Best Bolt that the pulleys need to have lubricated bushing in order to reduce friction. Best Bolt sourced the pulleys from a manufacturer in China, which did not include the lubricated bushing.

After purchasing two orders of pulleys from Best Bolt, Gared discovered that the pulleys used on its basketball goals were failing sooner than they should. That’s when the company learned the pulleys did not have the lubricated bushing.

It sued Best Bolt alleging breach of contract, breach of the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, and breach of the implied warranty of merchantability. Best Bolt countersued seeking payment on another order of pulleys and an order of clevis pins that Gared refused to accept.

The trial court ruled in favor of Best Bolt on Gared’s claims and on its counterclaim.

In Gared Holdings, LLC v. Best Bolt Products, Inc., 49A02-1210-PL-811, the Court of Appeals affirmed in part, agreeing with the trial court that the parties’ contract did not require Best Bolt to replicate the pulley samples that Gared provided, which contained lubricated bushing. Gared had indicated to Best Bolt that it was unhappy with some of the design of the previous pulleys.

The COA also affirmed summary judgment on the breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. The evidence showed that Gared was aware the pulleys should have a lubricated bushing and simply assumed that Best Bolt would include one in its design.

But on the issue of warranty of merchantability, the judges reversed, finding genuine issues of material fact. The trial court concluded that it didn’t apply to Best Bolt because it didn’t make the pulleys; that it was a distributor; and had made only one sale.

“We conclude that the fact that Best Bolt was not a manufacturer is not relevant to the issue of whether it was a merchant. Also, the undisputed evidence shows that Best Bolt made two sales of pulleys and was willing to continue selling pulleys. We conclude that these facts indicate that Best Bolt is a merchant with a relatively new product rather than a non-merchant seller making an isolated sale,” Judge Terry Crone wrote.

On remand, the trial court may also have to reconsider its ruling on Best Bolt’s counterclaim, depending on how it rules on the merchantability issue.

Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote a concurring opinion in which she dissented regarding the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose claim.

“Gared gave Best Bolt a sample pulley, and although Gared did not want an exact replica of that pulley because they were having quality issues with the cable separating and jamming between parts of the pulley, there were no quality issues with the lubricated bushing and Best Bolt, offering to procure a suitable replacement, held itself out to have the ability to judge what would be suitable,” she wrote.

 

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