Interesting Lemon Law Appellate Opinions (At Least to a Lemon Law Attorney)

The California Lemon Law is a very poorly drafted statute. Over the years, it has been amended several times which has lead to inconsistencies and contradictions within the text of the law.  When a trial court rules on an unclear area of the law, the loser of the decision may file an appeal.  The appellate court then rules on the trial court’s decision by way of an appellate opinion.  And if the appellate court publishes the opinion, the opinion becomes binding law on future cases dealing with that issue.  The following will discuss two published appellate court opinions that clarified certain unclear provisions of the California Lemon Law.

In a nutshell, the California Lemon Law requires a warrantor of a consumer good to repurchase or replace the consumer good if the warrantor is unable to fix a warranty problem within a reasonable number of repair attempts.  The law applies to all warranted consumer goods sold at retail in California. The law has a specific provision which applies to “‘new’ motor vehicles.”  So does the Lemon Law only apply to “new” cars and trucks?  Or does it apply to used vehicles sold with a manufacturer’s warranty?  This is an important issue given that manufacturers are selling certified used/pre-owned vehicles with warranties.  Also, many used cars are sold with the remaining portion of new car warranties.  Jenson v. BMW of North America, Inc. (1995) 35 Cal.App.4th 112, held that the California Lemon Law applies to all motor vehicles sold in California with the remaining portion of the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty regardless of whether the vehicle is new or used.

The California Lemon Law clearly applies to all warranted consumer goods that are sold in the State of California.  But does the law apply if a consumer good is purchased outside of California but has warranty repairs performed in California?  In Cummins, Inc. v Superior Court (2005) 36 Cal.4th 478, the California Supreme Court held that in order for the California Lemon Law to apply to a consumer good, the good must be purchased or leased in the State of California.  However, there is one exception to this rule.  If a member of the Armed Forces purchases a vehicle outside of California, but resides in California when the Lemon Law claim is commenced, the law will apply.  But even though the California Lemon Law may not apply to out of state purchased consumer goods, the Federal lemon law or other state lemon laws may apply.

If you believe you may have a lemon, feel free to contact us.  We are always happy to speak with you.


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