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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Saving Face

If a trailer manufacturer’s disclaimers begin on the first page of a warranty, but continue to the second page, are the disclaimers "on the face" of the warranty within the meaning of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act? The District Court of the Southern District of Indiana held that the disclaimers were not on the face of a warranty and, therefore, the disclaimers violated the Act.

The trailer manufacturer argued that, because the list of disclaimers began on the first page, it was prominently displayed and, thus, served the Act’s purpose of alerting consumers to a limitation on damages. The consumer, however, argued for an interpretation of Act based upon the plain meaning of the regulations. 16 C.F.R. § 701.1(i) defines "on the face of the warranty" to mean:

(1) Where the warranty is a single sheet with printing on both sides of the sheet or where the warranty is comprised of more than one sheet, the page on which the warranty text begins; (2) Where the warranty is included as part of a larger document, such as a use and care manual, the page in such document on which the warranty text begins.

The consumer contended that, consistent with the federal regulations, the list of disclaimers should appear in its entirety on the first page of the warranty, even if it meant that the disclaimers came before the warranty coverages.

Adopting the consumer’s plain meaning argument, the court "acknowledge[d] that other courts may interpret the statutes and regulations here differently." Nevertheless, it refused to "expand the meaning of ‘the face of the warranty’ to include second pages."

Miley v. Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc., No. 1:05-CV-0589, __ F. Supp. 2d __ (Aug. 10, 2005).

[Meredith R. Miller]

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