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Wilson v. Massey-ferguson

AUGUST 22, 1974.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Logan County; the Hon. ROBERT THORNTON, Judge, presiding.


Plaintiff-appellee filed a complaint in the circuit court of Logan County on December 2, 1971. Said complaint, as amended, alleged that on or about April 15, 1967, plaintiff purchased from the defendant Edward Westen, d/b/a Westen Implement Company, a tractor, manufactured by the defendant Massey-Ferguson, Inc., for the sum of approximately $9000. It is further alleged that defendants knew that plaintiff was buying the tractor for the purpose of heavy-duty plowing on his farm and therefore the defendants impliedly warranted, under sections 2-314 and 2-315 of the Uniform Commercial Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 26, ¶¶ 2-314, 2-315), that the tractor was merchantable, and fit for the particular purpose of heavy-duty plowing. Finally, it is alleged that the tractor was neither merchantable nor fit for the specific purpose as warranted, in that the tractor overheated, constantly threw out oil, and was not usable for general farming purposes.

Plaintiff demanded judgment in the sum of $3300, the alleged difference between the tractor's purchase price and its value at the time of purchase.

Defendant Westen filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action and for failure to allege facts as distinguished from conclusions. Defendant Massey filed an answer denying it sold the tractor to plaintiff, but claiming that plaintiff's purchase was made from Westen. Massey raised the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense. Defendant Massey filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings which was denied by the court with a specific finding that the complaint was not barred by the statute of limitations. A docket entry indicates that after a hearing on defendant's motion to dismiss, the case against Westen was dismissed. The case then proceeded to trial against the defendant Massey only.

The evidence introduced in plaintiff's case established that plaintiff purchased the tractor on April 15, 1967, for cash of around $9000; that there was no written contract between the parties; that plaintiff used the tractor for normal farming practices; that he had taken care of it according to the maintenance manual; and that the motor went dead and would not start. It was further established that in the fall of 1971, the tractor started leaking oil and, thereafter, Westen's mechanic looked at it and told plaintiff that the motor would have to be replaced.

At the trial, Westen testified that he was a Massey-Ferguson dealer and in response to the question of "How long does a tractor normally run?" he stated:

"Well, I would say there is tractors like that would run ten years without any problem. I think we have some that was sold in '64 or '65, somewhere in there."

Plaintiff's exhibit 1 was admitted into evidence which indicated that the cost to replace the tractor's engine would be in the sum of $4532.78. The agreement between Massey-Ferguson and Westen was also introduced into evidence.

The defense offered no evidence other than to cross-examine plaintiff's witness, Westen.

The trial court's order found that plaintiff purchased the tractor from Westen for $9000; that the tractor was manufactured by Massey-Ferguson; that defendants, as merchants, impliedly warranted the tractor to be merchantable and fit for the particular purpose for which it was bought; that the tractor was not merchantable or fit for the ordinary purpose for which the tractor was to be used; that the tractor overheats, constantly throws out excessive amounts of oil, and is generally not usable for any general farming purposes; and that the plaintiff was damaged to the extent of $4330.26. The court thereupon entered judgment in that amount.

In a statement of reasons for its decision, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 323(a) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 110A, ¶ 323(a)), the court indicated that the basis of its decision was that the breach occurred within 4 years from the date of filing suit and that defendant Westen was an agent of Massey-Ferguson for the purpose of selling the tractor.

Defendant Massey appealed from the judgment of the lower court and raised the following issues for review by this court: (1) was the action of the plaintiff barred by the statute of limitations; (2) does the record support a finding that Westen was an agent of Massey-Ferguson for purposes of affecting sales of property to plaintiff; and (3) was the finding of $4330.26 in damages contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence?

It should first be pointed out that an implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose under section 2-315 of the U.C.C. is not really involved here. First, there is no evidence whatever that the buyer was relying on the seller's skill or judgment to select or furnish suitable goods for a particular purpose. Furthermore, there was no evidence to support a warranty for a particular purpose. The Illinois Code Comment to section 2-315 indicates that:

"Thus, where the goods are to be put to ordinary use, the concept of merchantability and not particular purpose is involved." (S.H.A. ...

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