1. Read the attached case below. Provide a detailed case summary and what you learned from the case. Lastly, analyze how you would apply it in a management situation. Be sure your answer includes an analyis on regarding the implied warranty of merchantability regarding food. Importantly, this legal standard establishes a standard of average quality and requires that the goods be fit for their ordinary purpose and consumption. Lastly, remember that an object found in food must be reasonably anticipated by the consumer.
Bylsma v. Burger King Corp. The Washington Supreme Court’s decision in Bylsma v. Burger King Corp., which covers a tiny but critical part of the policeman’s lawsuit, has gotten a lot of publicity. Let me give you three quick points that most of the reporting misses: • The guy who spat on the burger pled guilty to assault and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, was fired, and is not a defendant in the lawsuit.
• The lawsuit, as it currently stands, has nothing to do with respondeat superior or whether the restaurant was negligent in hiring the guy who spat. • The case was decided under Washington law, and the real impact will be under Washington’s Products Liability Act, which gives restaurants like the Burger King franchise here, and Burger King itself, few defenses to this action. • A quick review of the facts. On March 29, 2009, the plaintiff, a Vancouver, Washington uniformed officer, took his marked patrol car through the drive-through of the Burger King owned by one defendant and franchised by Burger King Corp., the other defendant. He bought a Whopper with cheese and drove away, but for some reason he had, per the complaint, “an uneasy feeling.”
He pulled into a parking lot down the street, opened the wrapping, lifted the bun, and saw the notorious spit. There are several claims that food was intentionally tainted by spit and sometimes worse. But there are two differences between Officer Bylsma’s case and most of the others. First, he had the spit tested for DNA and then traced the DNA to a specific employee at the restaurant. I don’t think most individuals have either access to a DNA lab nor will law enforcement ordinarily issue the kind of warrant needed to obtain DNA samples for a simple alleged misdemeanor. And, second, Officer Bylsma did not taste the burger, so he cannot claim any form of physical harm from ingesting it. All he alleges is “emotional distress, including vomiting, nausea, food aversion, and sleeplessness”.
The question is whether this is sufficient to give him a remedy at law. And it’s here where the peculiarity of Washington’s Product Liability Act takes over. This law was enacted in 1981 to “provide a single cause of action for ‘harm caused by the manufacture, production, making, construction, fabrication, design, formula, preparation, assembly, installation, testing, warnings, instructions, marketing, packaging, storage or labeling of [a] product.’” It provides for liability on a negligence basis for some defects and provides for strict liability “if the claimant’s harm was proximately caused by the fact that the product was not reasonably safe in construction or not reasonably safe because it did not conform to the manufacturer’s express warranty or to the implied warranties under” Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code. RCW 7.72.030(2)(a) is the key to plaintiff’s case: A product is not reasonably safe in construction if, when the product left the control of the manufacturer, the product deviated in some material way from the design specifications or performance standards of the manufacturer, or deviated in some material way from otherwise identical units of the same product line.
• The guy who spat on the burger pled guilty to assault and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, was fired, and is not a defendant in the lawsuit. • The lawsuit, as it currently stands, has nothing to do with respondeat superior or whether the restaurant was negligent in hiring the guy who spat. • The case was decided under Washington law, and the real impact will be under Washington’s Products Liability Act, which gives restaurants like the Burger King franchise here, and Burger King itself, few defenses to this action,
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