Consumers frequently ask how long they have to file a lemon law claim before their claim is barred by the statute of limitations. In California, the statute of limitations to file a lemon law claim is governed by the statute of limitations concerning breach of contract, and specifically, breach of warranty claims.
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.”
The Court in Krieger v. Nick Alexander Imports, Inc. (1991) 234 Cal.App.3d 205 [285 Cal.Rptr. 717], explains the California lemon law statute of limitations. In that case, the consumer bought a vehicle on December 31, 1983, with a three-year written (expressed) warranty that was last serviced for repairs by the defendant on May 30, 1984. It was at that time that the consumer determined that the defendant could not repair the vehicle. The consumer filed a complaint on February 5, 1988. The car manufacturer argued that the consumer’s complaint was filed too late because by simple math, the consumer’s complaint would have been barred by the statute of limitations within three years from delivery of the vehicle because the clock would have started to tick on “tendering” of the vehicle. The Court disagreed and instead applied the “discovery” rule. In the California Commercial Code section 2725, subdivision (2) just cited, you can see that it also states that . . . “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.”
What the discovery rule means is that the vehicle warranties by their very nature, “extend to future performance” and thus consumers have to “await” to see whether they have a lemon in their hands. Thus, a consumer, in order to find out whether they have a lemon in their hands, they need to take the vehicle for repairs a reasonable amount of times to “discover” whether the vehicle is a lemon. In Krieger, then, because the last repair attempt was on May 30, 1984, and the filing of the complaint in court was on February 5, 1988, the complaint was timely because it fell within the 4 years of “discovery” that the vehicle was a lemon.
Sometimes vehicles would have expressed warranties, usually, for power train, that would last for 10 years from the day of delivery of the vehicle or 100,000 miles. That would make for a long California lemon law statute of limitations.
Calculating the statute of limitations for breach of warranty is not a simple endeavor. A consumer would be better served to leave this part to a lemon law attorney.
California Lemon Law provides for attorney’s fees and costs, there is no cost to you if you hire us as your attorneys.
Our Mission Viejo lemon law firm provides free consultations. If we take your case, you are not responsible for paying us any fees under California’s Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act.