Motor Homes of America, Inc. v. O'Donnell, s. 82-46

Decision Date19 October 1983
Docket Number82-394,Nos. 82-46,s. 82-46
Citation440 So.2d 422
PartiesMOTOR HOMES OF AMERICA, INC., a Florida corporation, Appellant, v. Clarence H. O'DONNELL and Georgia G. O'Donnell, and Winnebago Industries, Inc., a foreign corporation, Appellees.
CourtFlorida District Court of Appeals

Kenneth M. Jones of Moody & Jones, Fort Lauderdale, for appellant.

Robert W. Crawford, Fort Lauderdale, for appellees--O'Donnells.

R. Fred Lewis of Magill, Reid, Kuvin & Lewis, Miami, for appellee--Winnebago Industries, Inc.

DOWNEY, Judge.

These consolidated appeals by Motor Homes of America, Inc., seek reversal of (1) a final judgment in favor of Winnebago Industries, Inc., on a cross-claim in which Motor Homes sought indemnity from Winnebago Industries, Inc. (Case No. 82-46), and (2) an amended final judgment in favor of Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnell on their claim for rescission of a contract, damages, and attorney's fees (Case No. 82-394).

In 1980 the O'Donnells owned a recreational vehicle with a 36 gallon gasoline tank that gave a driving range of about 200 miles. They wanted a recreational vehicle with a longer cruising range and went to Motor Homes, from which they had bought the first vehicle, to find a suitable vehicle. A Motor Homes salesman showed them a 22 foot Brave Winnebago. A brochure supplied by Winnebago described the vehicle as having a 60 gallon tank. The O'Donnells asked Motor Homes to verify with Winnebago by telephone that the vehicle had a 60 gallon tank, since such a tank was an indispensible prerequisite for a purchase by the O'Donnells. The Motor Homes salesman did not call the Winnebago factory; instead, he informed the O'Donnells that all Motor Homes could go by was the brochure. Motor Homes could have determined that the vehicle had a 45 gallon tank by deciphering the vehicle identification number code, but none of the Motor Homes employees did any deciphering of that code, although they were on notice that the code would reveal gasoline tank capacity. The O'Donnells entered into a sales contract with Motor Homes which contained a conspicuously displayed disclaimer of any warranties, express or implied. Pursuant thereto the O'Donnells purchased the vehicle for $22,935 believing it had a 60 gallon gas tank. However, the vehicle in fact had only a 45 gallon tank. Moreover, the vehicle had other minor problems: water leaks, power steering problems, oil problems, fiberboard problems, as well as curtain and plumbing problems. Being dissatisfied with the unit the O'Donnells returned it to Motor Homes a few days after the purchase and thereafter brought suit against Motor Homes and Winnebago.

Counts I and II of the complaint sought rescission of the sale plus damages from Motor Homes. Counts III and IV sought damages from Motor Homes for breach of express and implied warranties. Counts V and VI sought damages from Winnebago for breach of express and implied warranties. Count VII sought attorney's fees pursuant to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (15 U.S.C.A. §§ 2301-2312 (West 1976)) from both Motor Homes and Winnebago. After a bench trial, the court awarded the O'Donnells $25,600 against Motor Homes on Count I only, holding that the plaintiffs should take nothing under the remaining six counts. The final judgment found against Motor Homes and Winnebago on their respective cross-claims. Thereafter, the O'Donnells moved to amend the final judgment to include a finding that they had prevailed on Count VII as to Motor Homes and were entitled to attorney's fees. The court granted that motion and entered an amended final judgment finding that the O'Donnells prevailed upon Count VII as to Motor Homes and were entitled to recover attorney's fees. These appeals followed.

Motor Homes' complaints on appeal are directed solely to the trial court's failure to grant Motor Homes relief on its cross claim against Winnebago and the award of attorney's fees to the O'Donnells against Motor Homes based upon the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

With reference to the indemnity claim against Winnebago we hold that, because Motor Homes was clearly guilty of some fault in the sale of the vehicle, a finding for Winnebago on the cross-claim was proper. As the Supreme Court said in Houdaille Industries, Inc. v. Edwards, 374 So.2d 490, 493 (Fla.1979):

Indemnity is a right which inures to one who discharges a duty owed by him, but which, as between himself and another, should have been discharged by the other and is allowable only where the whole fault is in the one against whom indemnity is sought.

We therefore affirm the denial of Motor Homes' cross-claim.

The purpose of the Magnuson-Moss Act is described in one of the leading cases decided under said act, Skelton v. General Motors Corp., 660 F.2d 311, 313-14 (7th Cir.1981) , cert. denied, 456 U.S. 974, 102 S.Ct. 2238, 72 L.Ed.2d 848 (1982), as:

Magnuson-Moss is, in the main, a remedial statute designed to protect consumers from deceptive warranty practices. Its draftsmen believed that consumer product warranties often were too complex to be understood, too varied to allow meaningful comparisons and too restricted to provide meaningful warranty protection. See S.Rep. No. 93-151, 93d Cong., 2nd Sess. 6-8 (1973); H.R.Rep. No. 93-1107, 93d Cong., 2d Sess. 22-29, reprinted in [1974] U.S.Code Cong. & Ad.News 7702, 7705-11. The Act's draftsmen sought to remedy these perceived ills by imposing extensive disclosure requirements and minimum content standards on particular types of written consumer product warranties. And, to promote enforcement of these warranties, the draftsmen devised a detailed remedial apparatus, which includes optional informal dispute settlement procedures as well as private and governmental judicial actions.

Although Magnuson-Moss does not require any manufacturer or seller to extend a warranty with its product, any "written warranty" offered with a consumer product is subject to the Acts's regulatory requirements. [Footnotes omitted.]

The court further opined that Congress did not intend "to create a federal cause of action for breach of all written express warranties" by enacting Magnuson-Moss. Skelton, supra, at 316. The court also declined to endorse the district court's conclusion that where a written warranty is issued, other written promises made in connection with the same transaction should be enforceable as part of the written warranty. Skelton, supra, at 320.

In Count VII of the complaint, the plaintiffs specifically sought attorney's fees and other relief under § 2304(a)(4). The trial court, without further elaboration, awarded fees on this basis. However, § 2304(a) imposes statutory obligations only upon certain suppliers; namely, "warrantor[s] warranting a consumer product by means of a written warranty" who seek to meet minimum federal standards. 15 U.S.C.A. § 2304. It is axiomatic that Motor Homes cannot be held liable for breaching a statutory duty it did not owe. The issue then is whether Motor Homes warranted the capacity of the fuel tank and other characteristics of the unit sold by means of a written warranty.

The Act defines a written warranty as follows:

(6) The term written warranty means--

(A) any written affirmation of fact or written promise made in connection with the sale of a consumer product by a supplier to a buyer which relates to the nature of the material or workmanship and affirms or promises that such material or workmanship is defect free or will meet a specified level of performance over a specified period of time, or

(B) any undertaking in writing in connection with the sale by a...

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5 cases
  • Frank Griffin Volkswagen, Inc. v. Smith
    • United States
    • Florida District Court of Appeals
    • 11 Diciembre 1992
    ...of a manufacturer's warranty, without more, does not render the dealer a co-warrantor by adoption, Motor Homes of America, Inc. v. O'Donnell, 440 So.2d 422, 427 (Fla. 4th DCA 1983), rev. denied, 451 So.2d 849 (Fla.1984), nor does it create a contractual obligation which can serve as a basis......
  • Lytle v. Roto Lincoln Mercury & Subaru, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • 14 Marzo 1988
    ...of a manufacturer's warranty, without more, does not render a dealer a cowarrantor by adoption. See, e.g., Motor Homes of America, Inc. v. O'Donnell (Fla.App.1983), 440 So.2d 422; Kure v. Chevrolet Motor Division (Wyo.1978), 581 P.2d 603; Import Motors, Inc. v. In the present case, defendan......
  • Florida Power & Light Co. v. Allis-Chalmers Corp.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida
    • 9 Abril 1990
    ...1290 (Fla.1985) ("no-fault" requirement precludes action for indemnity between joint tortfeasors); Motor Homes of America, Inc. v. O'Donnell, 440 So.2d 422, 424 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App. 1983) (following Houdaille). To prevail on an indemnity claim, then, the plaintiff must prove: (1) that he was h......
  • O'Donnell v. Motor Homes of America, Inc.
    • United States
    • Florida Supreme Court
    • 31 Mayo 1984
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1 books & journal articles
  • Warranty cases
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Florida Causes of Action
    • 1 Abril 2022
    ...manufacturer’s warranty, without more, does not render dealer a cowarrantor by adoption. Motor Homes of America, Inc. v. O’Don-nell , 440 So.2d 422 (Fla. 4th DCA 1983), rev. denied , 451 So.2d 849 (Fla. 1984). 4. No Obligation to Provide the Best: Implied warranty of fitness does not extend......

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