In Rolfs vs. Kia Motors America & Hi Desert Kia, a dealership, San
Bernadino County, Victorville Court, Case # VCVVS 041487, Stephanie Tatar,
trial attorney with Norman Taylor & Associates, a well-known California
Lemon Law firm, took on the Korean Auto manufacturing giant and won.
It was one of those rare occasions when the jury awarded the plaintiff
a double civil penalty. The verdict requires Kia to pay $7,990.80 for
the repurchase of the vehicle and $15,981.60 damages awarded by the jury:
additionally, subject to the courts consideration there will be a motion
for pre-judgment interest plus attorney’s fees and costs. Presiding
at trial was the Honorable Thomas Garza.
Heather Rolfs is in the Army stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Her
job in the Army is truck driver. Since joining the Army she has been to
several schools where she was taught to drive Semi’s (18-wheelers),
five—ton trucks and other heavy vehicles. Most of these vehicles
have manual transmissions.
Driving vehicles with a manual transmission was not foreign to Heather
Rolfs. She had been driving her father’s Mazda and other vehicles
with manual transmissions since she was 14 years old. If you met her you’d
have no trouble imagining her at the wheel of one of these big military
vehicles. Certainly the Army has confidence in Heather as she is scheduled
to ship out to Afghanistan to pursue her career.
In 2005 Terri and Lorri Rolfs bought their daughter Heather a 2005 Kia
Rio for her 18th birthday. Within a couple months the clutch failed. The
vehicle was towed to the dealership for repairs. At no time during this
process did anyone from the dealership ever call Heather Rolfs to let
her know what was wrong with her car, or suggest that she was the cause
of the defect.
Mr. Rolfs picked up the car when repairs were complete and brought it home.
Not long after the 1st repair attempt, the clutch failed again. When the
vehicle was presented for the 2nd repair attempt, the dealership refused
to repair the vehicle asserting the defect was caused by driver abuse.
Dealership personnel further stated, after the fact that the 1st defect
had also been caused by driver abuse. It is odd that they wouldn’t
have mentioned this at the time of the first defect, but then this case
is filled with these peculiar inconsistencies. For example service personnel
never took the vehicle out for a test drive or made any other attempt
to ascertain the exact cause of the defect; they simply asserted that
the defect was caused by driver abuse.
It should be noted that the 1st repair order said that it had been repaired
under warranty. Miraculously the dealership produced another repair order
nine months after the second repair stating that the first repair had
been done as a “good will gesture.” With this miracle document
in hand the dealership could claim that although the vehicle defect was
caused by Heather Rolfs abuse, they went ahead with repairs out of the
goodness of their hearts rather than as required under the terms of the
However, after the second clutch malfunction, Kia’s extraordinary
charity came to an end. The dealership absolutely refused to repair the
vehicle. At this point Norman Taylor & Associates took the case. This
was in February of 2006. Over two years later, during which time Heather
did not have her vehicle, the case went to trial.
This was one of those
Lemon Law cases where you wonder why Kia let this case go to trial in the first
place. The facts were clear, the amount of money negligible, and the plaintiff
a responsible member of our country’s military. Heather Rolfs simply
wanted her car to work properly so that she could get on with her life.
Instead, she lost the use of her car, wasted her time and that of her
parents and all the others involved in the case. Fortunately, common sense
and the law prevailed. Although Heather Rolfs doesn’t have her car,
she can take satisfaction in having the personal integrity to remain steadfast
through this test.
Staff Writer for Norman Taylor & Associates