Do You Need an Expert in a Breach of Warranty Claim?

In a Howard County case against local car giant Antwerpen (“Jack says yes!”), the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled that a purchaser of a used car must offer expert testimony as to causation where she claimed that the repairs to her car were needed based on defects in the car at the time of sale in violation of the Magnuson-Moss Act.

Plaintiff advanced two arguments on why an expert was unnecessary. First, she argues that, under the Magnuson-Moss Act, a consumer need not prove a specific defect. Second, she argues that Maryland law does not require expert testimony where, as here, the particular product requires so many repairs. Interestingly, the Plaintiff’s lawyer had named an expert but then withdrew the expert in response to a motion in limine to exclude the expert.

Writing for the majority, Judge Harrell rejects both arguments. In perhaps a sign that Judge Murphy will be a voice for the rights of consumers (and presumably injury victims), he wrote a concurring opinion agreeing that although an expert was needed in this case because there was evidence that work was done on the car outside the defendant’s control; he wanted to clarify that an expert is not needed in every breach of warranty claim involving a product defect. Specifically, Judge Murphy wrote that if a plaintiff testifies that, “I bought the car new, it’s still under warranty, it hasn’t been stolen or broken into, I have complied with all of the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations, I have made no modifications to the car but it won’t go more than 15 miles per hour,” then a jury question is generated even in the absence of expert testimony.

Click here to read the full text of the opinion.