To start the new year, I am going to summarize what California lemon law is, what a lemon law claim is in California, and who can file a lemon law claim in California.
At its core, when it comes to purchasing or leasing a vehicle, California lemon law may be defined as a set of consumer-friendly laws memorialized in the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, designed to protect consumers when they purchase or lease a vehicle at retail, against a vehicle manufacturer for “substantial defects” in the vehicle that affects its use, safety, or value, expressly warranted by the vehicle manufacturer, while the vehicle is under the express manufacturer warranty, and where the defect, or defects, are not fixed by the vehicle manufacturer or its agents, in a reasonable number of attempts. The Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act in turn can be found in California Civil Code 1790, et seq. See my article on this issue here.
A lemon law claim may be defined as a demand made against the vehicle manufacturer for the vehicle manufacturer breaching the express warranties or “promises” made to the consumer of the vehicle.
California statute and case law provide guidance on when to file a lemon law claim in California. The Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act prescribes that a consumer should, or could file a lemon law claim against the vehicle manufacturer after the consumer has given the vehicle manufacturer or its agents, a “reasonable” number of attempts to repair the vehicle. The courts in California have construed “reasonable” to mean at least two repair attempts. A consumer must be mindful of a statute of limitation concerning breach of warranty. In California, the answer is found in the California Commercial Code section 2725, subdivisions (1) and (2). “An action for breach of any contract for sale must be commenced within four years after the cause of action has been accrued . . . A cause of action accrues when the breach occurs, regardless of the aggrieved party’s lack of knowledge of the breach. A breach of warranty occurs when tender of delivery is made, except that where the warranty explicitly extends to the future performance of the goods and discovery of the breach must await the time of such performance the cause of action accrues when the breach is or should have been discovered.” See my article on this issue of the statute of limitations in California.
When it comes to the question of who can file a lemon law claim in California, we are asking the question of who has standing to sue. If a consumer is looking for redress in California, California law requires, among other things, that the consumer have bought, or leased, the vehicle in California, at retail. The exception to this is the “California military exception.” This exception is made for members of the military who, even if they bought the vehicle outside of California may obtain redress in California courts, “if the service member was stationed in or was a resident of California at the time he or she purchased the motor vehicle, or at the time he or she filed an action under the Act.” California Civil Code 1798.5.
The vehicle manufacturer loves to raise the following three defenses: 1) the consumer misused the vehicle, 2) the defect is not covered under the manufacturer express warranty, or warranties in question, 3) the vehicle’s defect or defects do not “substantially impair” the safety, use, or value of the vehicle.
California lemon law is a set of consumer-friendly laws memorialized in California’s Civil Code and is formally known as the California Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. The California lemon law generally requires the vehicle be bought at retail in California, unless the military exception applies, be bought with the manufacturer’s original express warranties, the defect or defects must have occurred under the vehicle manufacturer’s original express warranties, a reasonable number of attempts given before a consumer files a lemon law claim, and the consumer has to be mindful of any applicable statute of limitations concerning a lemon law claim, or breach of warranty. The vehicle manufacturer would generally raise the defenses of 1) vehicle misuse, 2) that the defect is not covered under the manufacturer’s express warranties, 3) that the vehicle’s defects, if any, do not substantially impair the use, safety, or value of the vehicle.
Please note that the information above is a brief summary of California’s lemon law. The California lemon law is nuanced and can become complicated very quickly. Although there is no requirement for a consumer to use a lemon law attorney to file a lemon law claim, a consumer may be best served to find a California lemon law attorney to file a claim because the California lemon law provides for attorney’s fees and costs be paid by the vehicle manufacturer if the consumer wins his or her claim.
Luis Aguirre California Lemon Law Attorney 26060 Acero Suite 111
Mission Viejo, CA 92691 Telephone: 949.342.6199.