O’Reilly Auto Parts, a leading auto supply store with locations across the country, is in legal jeopardy over a product that not many people think of until they need it. A customer is suing the company for defective wiper fluid that was advertised in a misleading way and caused serious damage. A federal court recently accepted the case and rejected all motions for dismissal from O’Reilly. The auto company will now have to defend itself in court against a peculiar but problematic defection of one of its products.
O’Reilly’s Defective Wiper Fluid
O’Reilly has been selling wiper fluid ever since its first store opened in 1957. Many of the brands of wiper fluid sold at the store claim that they work in low temperatures and stays in liquid form down to below -20 degrees Fahrenheit, a claim that O’Reilly backs up. This selling point is important, since solidified wiper fluid can cause problems throughout the mechanisms of the windshield wipers. Missouri merchandising law bans companies from making false or misleading claims about the products they sell.
Plaintiff Paul Weishaar of St. Louis, a city that often sees frigid temperatures, bought a bottle of the wiper fluid in 2010. He tried to use the fluid well within the range of temperatures listed on the bottle and on O’Reilly’s advertising material. However, the plaintiff was surprised when the wiper fluid did not work the way he intended. In fact, seven other brands of wiper fluid that he also bought from O’Reilly failed to work in cold temperatures. The fluid sometimes froze once on the windshield, creating a blue, streak-covered sheet of ice that obscured the driver’s vision. Wiper fluid also froze in the mechanism, threatening to ruin the future function of that mechanism. These defects could cause serious damage that may have to be taken to a dealership, as well as causing a possible accident.
The Lawsuit Against Defective Wiper Fluid
The lawsuit is only continuing to grow and provide headaches for O’Reilly. Due to a motion filed by O’Reilly, Weishaar has moved his case in St. Louis out of state court and into federal court. The Class of his class-action lawsuit has expanded due to O’Reilly earning more than $5 million from its wiper fluid sales. Observers have noted that he is in a district particularly friendly to its consumers, but wonder about the chances of success that his lawsuit has. He would have to prove what happened when he tried to use the defective fluid and how the O’Reilly advertising was worded. His Class would also have to survive scrutiny, since he is claiming the lawsuit on behalf of everyone who bought the wiper fluid. Weishaar and his attorney will have to prove that these other plaintiffs qualified for the case and suffered the same damages from O’Reilly.
The next step in Weishaar’s case will be several more motions and then discovery. Depositions may expand the focus of the case and lead to more details of what exactly happened to Weishaar’s windshield wipers. If the case moves forward, O’Reilly could be on the hook for millions. The FTC, the state of Missouri, and the many purchasers of O’Reilly’s wiper fluid will all be anxiously waiting how this case turns out.
Learn more about Defective Product Lawsuits.