Used-Car Dealer May Be on the Hook for Injuries Related to Missing Muffler

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case that raises interesting issues for Florida product liability plaintiffs who have been injured as a result of an improperly designed or maintained vehicle. The case required the court to determine if a used-car dealer could be held liable for injuries caused by carbon monoxide poisoning that was a result of the car being sold without a muffler. Interestingly, although the plaintiffs purchased the car “as-is,” the court concluded that the dealership may still be liable.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs purchased a used car from the defendant dealership “as-is.” Given that there were 180,000 miles on the vehicle and that the asking price was $1,500, the plaintiffs were aware that some mechanical work was needed. However, they were not told that the vehicle’s muffler was missing.

The plaintiffs noticed a gasoline smell in the vehicle and had the oil changed, but the smell persisted. The mechanic who changed the oil noted several issues with the vehicle, but again, the lack of muffler was not noted. The plaintiffs took their minor son to see an apartment to which they were considering moving. However, the landlord was late, and the plaintiffs were forced to wait in their car for 45 minutes.

Most of that time, the windows in the vehicle were down, but when it started to rain, they rolled the windows up. When the landlord eventually showed up, the minor son collapsed as he exited the vehicle. He later started having a seizure, and the plaintiffs took him to the emergency room, where it was discovered that all three plaintiffs had suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.

The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against the dealership, claiming that it was negligent for selling them the car without a muffler. The plaintiff presented the testimony of two expert witnesses.

First, a local fire captain who was familiar with carbon monoxide poisoning testified that gas-powered cars emit carbon monoxide, and the purpose of a muffler is to expel the toxic gas away from the vehicle so that it does not creep inside the cabin through the vehicle’s ducting system. The plaintiffs also had one of their treating physicians testify to their diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The dealership successfully moved for summary judgment at trial, and the plaintiffs appealed. On appeal, the case was reversed. The court found that the plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to survive the dealership’s summary judgment challenge through both circumstantial evidence as well as their expert testimony. The court explained that the facts as reported by the plaintiffs gave rise to an inference that the car being sold without a muffler resulted in their carbon monoxide poisoning. That being the case, the court determined that the ultimate issue of liability should be determined by a jury.

Have You Been Injured by a Defective Product?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while using a defective or unreasonably dangerous product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a South Florida product liability lawsuit. The dedicated Florida injury lawyers at the law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have decades of experience handling product liability cases, and they know what it takes to succeed on their clients’ behalf. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Rejects Underinsured Motorist Claim Following Horse-Drawn Carriage Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 19, 2017.

Court Dismisses Slip-and-Fall Case Based on Plaintiff’s Failure to Provide Specific Location of Injury, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 4, 2018.

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