W. E. Johnson Equipment Co. v. United Airlines, Inc.

Decision Date13 July 1970
Docket NumberNo. 39173,39173
Citation8 UCC Rep.Serv. 53,238 So.2d 98
Parties8 UCC Rep.Serv. 53 W. E. JOHNSON EQUIPMENT CO., Inc., Petitioner, v. UNITED AIRLINES, INC., Respondent.
CourtFlorida Supreme Court

Jon D. White, of Walsh & Dolan, Fort Lauderdale, for petitioner.

John H. Wahl, Jr., of Walton, Lantaff, Schroeder, Carson & Wahl, Miami, for respondent.

DREW, Justice.

We review a decision of the District Court of Appeal, Fourth District, 1 that a bailee for hire may maintain an action against a bailor for hire for breach of an implied warranty of suitability for a leased chattel's known and intended use. The holding below conflicts with a statement of law in the case of Brookshire v. Florida Bendix Co. 2 that a bailor's obligation is limited to the duty to exercise due care to furnish an article in a reasonably safe condition. We must decide whether the responsibility of the lessor is limited as stated by the court in Brookshire, or whether the lessor's responsibility includes an implied warranty that the chattel leased is fit for a particular purpose if such purpose is known to the lessor. The facts are adequately set forth in the district court opinion and will not be restated here. We have jurisdiction under Article V, Section 4 of the Florida Constitution, F.S.A.

Today the leasing business flourishes. More and more the individual or business leases one or more articles that in former years would have been purchased. The same business goals often can be reached by lease as well as by purchase. Determining the extent of the lessee's recourse against the lessor will undoubtedly become an increasingly frequent task for the courts.

The early case of Williamson v. Phillipoff 3 was a precursor of things to come. This Court held that a bailed chattel must be of a character and in a condition to be used as contemplated by the contract, and that the bailor is liable for damages occasioned by faults or defects in the chattel. The decision rested more upon contract than implied warranty principles as we know them today. Since Williamson we have disposed of cases closely allied with this cause, 4 but until today have not decided the precise issue here.

We have long recognized and applied the warranty of fitness for a particular purpose in Sales cases. 5 This implied warranty in the Sale of goods has become part of Florida statutory law by adoption of the Uniform Commercial Code. 6 As pointed out in the official comments to the Florida codification of the fitness warranty, a 'particular purpose' differs from the ordinary purpose for which goods are used, in that a specific use peculiar to the nature of the purchaser's business or activity is contemplated, whereas the ordinary purposes for which goods are used are those envisaged in the concept of merchantability and are aimed at uses which are customarily made of the goods in question. In commenting upon a preceding section of the Code dealing with warranties, the official commentators suggest that warranties need not be confined to sales contracts, noting that they may arise in other appropriate circumstances such as in the case of bailments for hire. The warranty sections of the Code are not designed to disturb in any way such lines of case law extension of warranties that are confined in the Code to sales. 7

Among the courts that have recently considered the question, the weight of authority is with implying a warranty of fitness under appropriate circumstances. 8 Application of the implied warrantly of fitness to the lease or bailment for hire situation has received favorable support and comment in many legal periodicals. 9 William Prosser in the latest edition of his treatise recognizes that the bailor of a chattel for hire is often found to have impliedly warranted its fitness for the bailee's particular use. 10 Prosser finds no good reason to withhold extension of the fitness warranty to the lease situation, subject to all limitations now found in sales cases. We agree.

The reasons for imposing the warranty of fitness in sales cases are often present in lease transactions. Public policy demands that in this day of expanding rental and leasing enterprises the consumer who leases be given protection equivalent to the consumer who purchases. Although a sale transfers ownership and a lease or bailment merely transfers possession and anticipates future return of the chattel to the owner, there may be as much or more reliance on the competence or expertise of the lessor than on the competence of the seller. The prospective lessee with an immediate need is more apt to spend less time 'shopping around' for the most suitable chattel if he contemplates possession for a relatively short time rather than permanent ownership. Just as in the sale of goods, the lessee may have little opportunity or ability to detect a design or other characteristic inherent in the leased chattel that might render it unsuitable for a particular intended use. The lessor as well as the seller is able to sustain or distribute as a cost of doing business the expense of protecting himself against damages sustained by breach of this warranty.

The warranty of fitness does not arise in...

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29 cases
  • Bennett v. Behring Corp.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida
    • February 15, 1979
    ...Commercial Code to Bailments," 48 ALR 3rd 668 (1972). Florida apparently is in accord with this view. See, Johnson Equipment Co. v. United Air Lines, Inc., 238 So.2d 98 (Fla. 1970), although no Florida case directly on point has been Plaintiffs alternate argument that F.S. 672.2-302 is appl......
  • Knox v. North American Car Corp.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • January 9, 1980
    ...circumstances of the case." See also Sawyer v. Pioneer Leasing Corp. (1968), 244 Ark. 943, 428 S.W.2d 46; W. E. Johnson Equipment Co. v. United Airlines, Inc. (Fla.1970), 238 So.2d 98; Glenn Dick Equipment Co. v. Galey Constr., Inc. (1975), 97 Idaho 216, 541 P.2d 1184; Hertz Commercial Leas......
  • Rourke v. Garza
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • May 9, 1974
    ... ... Anthony, Galveston, for appellee Har-Con Engineering, Inc ... Page 333 ...         COLEMAN, Chief ... years prior to the accident and had rented such equipment to Har-Con on a number of different occasions prior to this ... 434, 212 A.2d 769; W. E. Johnson Equipment Co., Inc. v. United ... Page 337 ... ...
  • Glenn Dick Equipment Co. v. Galey Const., Inc.
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • October 8, 1975
    ...531 (N.Y.Civil Ct., 1971).4 KLPR TV, Inc., v. Visual Electronics Corp., 465 F.2d 1382 (8th Cir., 1972); W. E. Johnson Equip. Co., Inc. v. United Airlines, Inc., 238 So.2d 98 (Fla.1970); Sawyer v. Pioneer Leasing Corp., 244 Ark. 943, 428 S.W.2d 46 (1968). See, Hawkins Const. Co. v. Matthews ......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Warranty cases
    • United States
    • James Publishing Practical Law Books Florida Causes of Action
    • April 1, 2022
    ...1963), cert. dismissed, 163 So.2d 881 (Fla. 1964), disapproved of on other grounds by W. E. Johnson Equip. Co. v. United Airlines Inc. , 238 So.2d 98 (Fla. 1970). WARRANTY CASES 5-5 Warranty Cases §5:10 §5:10.5 Related Matters 1. Attorney Fees: Magnuson-Moss (co-extensive with a right of ac......

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