What is the lemon law?

When Californians talk about the “lemon law” what they are usually referring to is the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, Civil Code Section 1790, et seq. Under Song-Beverly, warrantors (usually manufacturers) have to comply with their written warranty. If they can’t fix a covered product after a reasonable opportunity, then they have to buy it back or offer a replacement. If they don’t comply with their warranty obligations, you can bring a “lemon law lawsuit.”

What does California’s lemon law cover?

The Song-Beverly Act covers more than just cars. The Conn Law, PC team have brought “lemon law” cases for motorcycles, boats, RVs, and even defective faucets. Almost any consumer product that comes with a warranty is covered by the lemon law.

Is my car a lemon?

Under the Song-Beverly Act, there are three basic requirements before you can bring a lemon law claim:

1. There has to be a “substantial” nonconformity. That means, a defect that substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of the vehicle to you.

2. You have to give the manufacturer or its representatives a “reasonable opportunity” to repair the vehicle. You almost always need to give them at least two tries, sometimes, at least four.

3. The manufacturer has to be unable to fix the defect after a “reasonable number of attempts”

If all three requirements apply to you, your car could be lemon and you may have a claim. Give us a call.

Does the lemon law cover cars that are out of warranty?

It depends on the circumstances. If the problem was a latent defect that existed during the warranty period, you might be able to bring a claim. And if you took your vehicle in for the same problem during the warranty period and it was not fixed, the warranty may be extended to cover that defect.

How many times do I have to take my car in for repair before it is a lemon?

Almost always, you have to take the vehicle in at least two times. And if the problem is not safety related, more repair attempts might be required. It really depends on the circumstances.

Does the dealership have to verify the problem in order for my car to be a “lemon”?

No. It us not unusual for us to bring cases where the repair orders read “problem not verified.” The consumer’s only obligation is to give the manufacturer a reasonable opportunity to repair the vehicle. Even if there is “no problem found,” it still counts as a repair opportunity. However, if no defect is ever verified, we may need you to take the vehicle to an independent expert before we can file a case.

I did not have any issues with my car within the first 18,000 miles. Can I still bring a case?

Yes. As long as there is a breach of a warranty, you may still have a case. What you might be thinking of is something called the “Tanner Presumption.” This means that there is a presumption that manufacturer has had a reasonable opportunity to repair a vehicle if it presented for repair multiple times during the first 18,000 miles or 18 months of use. However, meeting the Tanner Presumption is not necessary to bring a case. In fact, most cases we bring do not involve the presumption.

The dealership that I bought my car from is out of business. Is there anything I can do?

Yes. While you may have other types of claims against the dealership, lemon law claims are ultimately against the manufacturer. It is the manufacturer that provided the express warranty and it is the manufacturer that has the repurchase obligation. The dealership going out of business has little effect on a lemon law case.

Do I have to go to arbitration first?

No! Despite what the manufacturer or dealership may have told you, in California, you do not have to go to arbitration before filing a lawsuit. While many manufacturers offer arbitration programs, they are generally not binding on the consumer and frankly are usually a waste of time.

How long do I have to file a lawsuit?

You should never sit on your rights if you have a valid claim. But Song-Beverly generally gives the consumer four years to file the lawsuit from the earlier of either: (1) the expiration of the warranty; or (2) from the date discovery that the vehicle was a lemon. When you “discovered” that the vehicle was a lemon is a factual issue but it can be either from the last repair order or from the date that you ask the manufacturer to buy back the vehicle.

If you are worried that you are running out of time to file your case, give us a call right away.

I live in California now, but I bought my vehicle out of state. I’m having issues with it, can I still bring a lemon law case?

While it is true that Song-Beverly requires that the vehicle be bought in California, other remedies might be available. For example, you may still have a claim under the Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Give us a call to see if we can help.