Many consumers believe that in order to make use of the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, also known as the lemon law, that they still need to have possession of their vehicle when filing a dispute with the car manufacturer. This is not the case. In a case named Juanita Martinez v. Kia Motors of America, Inc. (2011), the court concluded that the California lemon law provides remedies to consumers and that “In providing these remedies, the Legislature has not required that the consumer maintain possession of the goods at all times. All that is necessary is that the consumer afford the manufacturer a reasonable number of attempts to repair the goods to conform to the applicable express warranties.” Id.
In the Martinez case for example, Martinez complained of a burning smell to the dealership “on at least four occasions during the first three years. The dealer did nothing about the problem. No other mechanical problems were experienced throughout the first three years of ownership.” Id. Within the warranty period and while Martinez was driving, “the vehicle started shaking and making strange noises; smoke started coming from the engine compartment. The lights and windows began malfunctioning. [Martinez] pulled to the side of the road. While there, a Good Samaritan, who was a mechanic at a local car care center, visually inspected the engine area and believed the alternator had overcharged the battery. [Martinez] called her son, who purchased and installed a new battery. The vehicle would not start. The car was then towed to a local dealership . . .” Id. In short, the dealership claimed that the problem stemmed out of consumer’s negligence, thus taking it out of the warranty. Martinez left the vehicle at the dealership in order to be repaired and stopped making payments and at some point, the vehicle was repossessed by the lienholder. The lienholder subsequently towed the car to another manufacturer authorized dealership where it was confirmed the problem was in fact due to the alternator and was covered under the vehicle manufacturer’s original warranty and the dealer fixed the car under the original warranty. Id.
The Court, finding for Martinez, concluded that “there is no requirement under the statutory provisions of the Act [Lemon Law], that as a matter of law, a consumer must maintain ownership or control of the nonconforming vehicle for purposes of claiming the benefits of the Act. Nor is there statutory support for the notion that a consumer loses the protection of the Act once the nonconforming vehicle is repossessed.” Id.
It is important to note that the issue decided by the court was that of physical possession of the vehicle in order for a consumer avail himself or herself of the lemon law in California. The court, as noted above, concluded that not having possession of the vehicle is not fatal to a potential case, but the consumer has to be aware that almost as much as having the vehicle’s work repair orders, possession is also important to a potential case because of discovery issues and vehicle inspections. In other words, although not having the vehicle that is the subject matter of the dispute with a manufacturer is not fatal to a potential case, it is helpful to physically possess the vehicle at the time the consumer commences a dispute with the car manufacturer.
Our Mission Viejo lemon law firm provide free consultations. If we take your case, you are not responsible for paying us any fees under California’s Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. Learn more about Luis Aguirre Law by visiting our other brand profiles: About Me, Twitter, and Facebook.