California military lemon law is a term commonly used for an exception for military service members to file a lemon law or breach of warranty claim under the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (the Act) in California. Under the Act, consumers may only bring lemon law claims for vehicles (and other products under the Act) that are bought and serviced in California. Military service members, however, may bring a claim under the Act regarding their motor vehicle even if they bought their vehicle outside of California “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.” CA Civil Code 1795.8.
This is the actual reading of the law: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, this chapter shall apply to a purchase in the United States of a motor vehicle, as defined in paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 1793.22, with a manufacturer’s express warranty by a member of the Armed Forces regardless of in which state his or her motor vehicle is purchased or registered, if both of the following apply:
(a) The member of the Armed Forces purchases a motor vehicle, as defined in paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 1793.22, with a manufacturer’s express warranty from a manufacturer who sells motor vehicles in this state or from an agent or representative of that manufacturer.
(b) The member of the Armed Forces was stationed in or a resident of this state at the time he or she purchased the motor vehicle or at the time he or she filed an action pursuant to this chapter.”
The California Military Lemon Law is codified in the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act in CA Civil Code 1795.8, and derived from California Senate Bill 234 (SB 234). The “Digest” of SB 234 reads in part as follows:
“This bill provides that California’s Lemon Law cover a motor vehicle purchased by a member of the Armed Forces in the United States with a manufacturer’s express warranty regardless of the state of purchase or registration, if both of the following apply:
1) The member purchased the motor vehicle, as defined, from a manufacturer who sells vehicles in California, and 2) the member was stationed in or a resident of California at the time he or she purchased the vehicle or at the time he or she filed an action pursuant to California’s Lemon Law.
This bill defines ‘Member of the Armed Forces’ for purposes of California’s Lemon Law as a person on full-time active duty in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, National Guard, or Coast Guard, and provides that full-time active duty also include active military service at a designated military service school.”
SB 234 cites a case of a Lieutenant who “testified live from Iraq while on deployment from a base in Southern California. The auto manufacturer acknowledged his new truck was a lemon and told him that if he were protected by California’s lemon law, the manufacturer would promptly repurchase the lemon. Still, since he lacked the protection, they refused to buy it back. Eventually, the case was resolved, but the Lieutenant had to accept a large deduction and took a hefty loss instead of obtaining a complete refund. (Testimony was delivered live via telephone before the Joint Committee on Boards, Commissions, and Consumer Protection, held May 23, 2006.) In addition, the manufacturer has attempted to have the vehicle retitled as a VOLUNTARY BUYBACK, as opposed to a lemon law buyback. This could mean that some unsuspecting consumer may get saddled with a lemon.”
California lemon law and related statutes, including “military lemon law,” are nuanced and complicated. Although a consumer is not required to hire a lemon law attorney to file a claim in California, there is an incentive for a California consumer, including military service members, to use an attorney for a potential lemon law claim because the Act provides for attorneys’ fees and costs be paid by the vehicle manufacturer if the consumer prevails.
Attorney Luis Aguirre is a U.S. Veteran who knows about the particular sensitivities of military service members. Contact us for a free consultation.
Luis Aguirre California Lemon Law Attorney 26060 Acero Suite 111
Mission Viejo, CA 92691 Telephone: 949.342.6199.