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Ruffin v. Shaw Indus., Inc.

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 21473
Nos. 94-1882, 149 F.3d 294/(4th Cir., 07/16/1998)

The court held that homeowners failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to necessary elements of their negligence, implied warranty of merchantability, express warranty, and strict liability claims against a carpet manufacturer. The court first holds that the testimony of the homeowners' toxicology expert is not admissible under Fed. R. Evid. 702 and the reliability prong established in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 23 ELR 20979 (1993). The homeowners presented no evidence that its expert's methodology had been independently replicated. In addition, the uncontradicted evidence before the court demonstrates that peers in the relevant scientific community have been critical of the methodology employed by the homeowners' expert but generally supportive of the procedures employed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and private laboratories cited by the carpet manufacturer. Further, the evidence and the accompanying peer review relating to the methodology used by the homeowners' expert indicate that the technique is not generally accepted in the relevant scientific community.

The court next holds that the homeowners' negligence and breach of implied warranty of merchantability claims fail because the homeowners did not establish a defect in the carpet. Presented with the testimony of the carpet manufacturer's expert stating that a chemical analysis of the carpet identified no unusual materials or chemicals and the carpet installers' statements that the carpet was in a bad batch of chemicals, no reasonable jury could find that the installed carpet contained a defect. The court next holds that statements by a carpet store manager, which were relied on by the homeowners, are insufficient to create an express warranty because the statements were merely puffing or the store manager's opinion on the product's value. The court then holds that even if North Carolina recognized strict products liability claims, the sale and installation of carpet cannot be considered an ultrahazardous activity, and, therefore, the homeowners' strict liability claim fails.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Sandra Ruffin
3009-B Buckingham Rd., Wilson NC 27893
(919) 243-7230

Counsel for Defendants
Michael K. Kapp
Maupin, Taylor & Ellis
3200 Beechleaf Ct., Ste. 500, Raleigh NC 27619
(919) 981-4000

Before Widener, Motz, and Phillips, JJ.