In a sale of goods under the Uniform Commercial Code, the statements of an unidentified employee aren't sufficient to prove an express warranty, according to a case decided yesterday by the Oregon Court of Appeals. In East County Recycling, Inc. v. Pneumatic Construction, Inc., the court addressed an alleged representation about a baling machine's ability to operate in Oregon's wet weather. The buyer of the machine sued the seller when the baler didn't hold up to the elements. The buyer claimed that, before it made the purchase, an unidentified employee of the seller promised over the phone that the baler would work outdoors, thereby creating an express warranty as to the machine's characteristics under the UCC.
Because the identity of that employee was unknown, the buyer could not show that the employee had authority to make representations about the machine on behalf of the seller. Lacking that evidence, the buyer was unable to prove the existence of an express warranty, and the Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for the seller.
This case shows that, when making a big-ticket purchase, it's critical to get in writing any representations about the product's features and characteristics. Testimony about an oral representation by the other side may not stand up in court.