CA lemon law protects consumers against vehicles with nonconformities that are covered
under the warranty which substantially impair the use, value, or safety
of the vehicle. What is a nonconformity substantially impairing the value
of the vehicle?
1) A nonconformity may include a number of relatively minor defects whose
cumulative total adds up to a substantial impairment. This is the “Shaken
Faith” Doctrine first stated in the Zabriskie case. “For a
majority of people the purchase of a new car is a major investment, rationalized
by the peace of mind that flows from its dependability and safety. Once
their faith is shaken, the vehicle loses not only its real value in their
eyes, but becomes an instrument whose integrity is substantially impaired
and whose operation is fraught with apprehension.”
2) A substantial nonconformity may include a failure or refusal to repair
the goods under the warranty. In Durfee V. Rod Baxter Imports, the Minnesota
Court held that the Saab owner that was plagued by a series of annoying
minor defects and stalling, which were never repaired after a number of
attempts, could revoke, “if repairs are not successfully undertaken
within a reasonable time”, the consumer may elect to revoke.
Substantial Non Conformity and Lemon Laws often define what may be considered
a substantial impairment. These definitions have been successfully used
to flesh out the substantial impairment in the UCC.
The “Shaken Faith” Doctrine:
In addition to the question of substantial impairment, the severity of
the defect can impact the question of how many repair attempts are reasonable.
If a defect indicates that the particular item is of poor quality overall,
or is so substantial that the dealer probably could not correct it to
the satisfaction of a reasonable buyer, then the buyer need not permit
further repair attempts.
Under the old Commercial Code, the seller is entitled to a reasonable opportunity
to cure the defect before a buyer can revoke acceptance. However, when
the buyer’s faith in the goods is so shaken that remedying the specific
part or problem would not satisfy a reasonable buyer, the buyer may revoke
acceptance, and get a refund without allowing any repair. Courts often
call this the shaken faith doctrine.
Where a consumer has reasonably lost confidence in the performance of a
vehicle, the shaken faith doctrine should allow the consumer to say, “Enough
is enough,” and demand a replacement or refund under the California
lemon law or other state lemon law without allowing any further repair