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Buyers Beware: Service Technicians Owe No Duty to Warn of Improper Installation

November 29, 2011

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In <em>Thorpe v. General Electric</em>, plaintiffs purchased a General Electric refrigerator and had it installed in their vacation home (not by GE). The manual warned owners to only use copper tubing to connect the icemaker to house plumbing, and that plastic tubing posed a risk of water leakage over time. On the rear of the refrigerator near the waterline connection, a label further warned against using plastic tubing, and disclaimed liability for improper installation. Despite these warnings, the refrigerator was installed and connected with plastic tubing.
Five years later, in August 2006, plaintiffs entered into a twelve-month service contract with GE. The contract disclaimed liability for damages arising out of installation, for damages caused by plumbing, or for replacement of tubing. It also disclaimed liability for any consequential damages related to the performance of the service contract. In May 2007, a GE technician repaired the icemaker. Sixteen months later, the plastic tubing ruptured and water leaked into the house, causing substantial damage. In opposition to GE’s summary judgment motion, plaintiffs argued that GE’s service technician had a duty to inspect the installation and warn plaintiffs of the improper installation. The court however, would not read a duty to inspect or warn into the service contract, and granted GE’s summary judgment motion.
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Thanks to Sheila Osei for her contribution to this post.


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