The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (or the California lemon law, as it is colloquially known) requires that a manufacturer, who cannot repair a vehicle within a “reasonable” number of repair attempts, to replace or repurchase it. It sounds simple, but the lemon law is full of nuance and ambiguity. This isn’t bad news, because it opens up many possible defenses.
A number of defenses have been successfully employed against unjust consumer lemon law claims, including:
The attempts to repair the vehicle were insufficient The lemon law requires that the consumer allow the manufacturer a “reasonable” number of repair attempts before the lemon law can be invoked.
Although California has established standards that create a rebuttable presumption that the number of attempts was reasonable, a single unsuccessful repair attempt will likely be deemed insufficient. In many cases, several repair attempts are required.
The vehicle is not covered by the lemon law
The following vehicles, among others, are not covered under the California lemon law:
Vehicles bought or leased outside of California
Vehicles sold without a manufacturer’s warranty
Vehicles with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or more
Business vehicles owned or leased by a business that has more than five vehicles registered in California
Vehicles bought from someone other than a retailer
Vehicles leased for four months or less
The defect is not serious enough to invoke the lemon law
The alleged defect must substantially impair the “use, market value, or safety” of the vehicle to trigger lemon law protections.
The defect is not covered by the original manufacturer’s warranty
Warranty exemptions are relevant here as are defects caused by inadequate user maintenance. Defects that occur during an extended warranty do not trigger liability under the California lemon law.
Expiration of the statute of limitations
The statute of limitations deadline expires four years after the consumer discovered or should have discovered that his car is a “lemon.”
The warranty has expired
To serve as an effective defense, the warranty must have already expired by the time the vehicle qualified as a lemon – not the time that the consumer actually asserts a lemon law claim. That gives the consumer at least four more years to assert a claim.
Abuse of the vehicle
The California lemon law does not cover a defect caused by the “unauthorized or unreasonable use” of the vehicle.
These defenses are not exhaustive. Other defenses may be available as well, depending on the circumstances.
The Federal Lemon Law
Although the federal lemon law (the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act) applies to implied warranties, written (or express) warranties, and service contracts, it is aimed primarily at deceptive practices by sellers.
Act Now to Secure Legal Counsel
It is true that the California lemon law is biased in favor of consumers. However, not every case is airtight. At CKB Vienna, our lawyers know the system inside out, and we are skilled at finding weaknesses in the opposing party’s case.