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Vertical Privity

15 January, 2016 - 09:33

The traditional rule was that remote selling parties were not liable: lack of privity was a defense by the manufacturer or wholesaler to a suit by a buyer with whom these entities did not themselves contract. The buyer could recover damages from the retailer but not from the original manufacturer, who after all made the product and who might be much more financially able to honor the warranty. The UCC takes no position here, but over the last fifty years the judicial trend has been to abolish this vertical privity requirement. (SeeFigure 17.2; the entities in the distribution chain are those in vertical privity to the buyer.) It began in 1958, when the Michigan Supreme Court overturned the old theory in an opinion written by Justice John D. Voelker (who also wrote the novel Anatomy of a Murder, under the pen name Robert Traver). 1