California Lemon Law: Should It Apply to Toyota?

A Sacramento, California-based consumer advocacy group called CARS (Consumers for Automobile Reliability and Safety) is arguing that Toyota Motor Corporation should buy back models with the highly-publicized unexpected acceleration problem as lemon law buy-backs. So far, Toyota has not taken this measure with their customers, instead urging them to bring the affected cars to dealerships where they will be repaired.

Rosemary Shahan, president of CARS and a nationally known advocate for vehicle owners’ rights stated that consumers who have experienced the horror of unexpected acceleration should not be subjected to repeat experiences, but should instead be offered a refund by the manufacturer.

“Such a request may certainly have merit, although it doesn’t strictly conform to lemon law,” said Norman Taylor, leading California lemon law attorney. “Under California’s lemon law, a manufacturer is entitled to a reasonable opportunity to repair a defect. While the court assumes that four repair attempts for the same defect is enough of an opportunity, fewer repair attempts are required if the defect is a serious safety risk—under which the Toyota acceleration problem would certainly be classified.”

Taylor has seen and dealt with his share of vehicle defects. He has been a California lemon law specialist for the past 23 years, and he and his firm, Norman Taylor and Associates, have handled over 8,000 cases for consumers with a 98 percent success rate.

Shahan is arguing that Toyota should simply buy back the affected vehicles and keep them until they are made completely safe, at which point they could be re-sold but with the statement “lemon law buyback” affixed to their titles. This would relieve consumers who have already been through one or more frightening unexpected accelerations.

Toyota has not commented one way or the other on Shahan’s statements.

“A vehicle with a defect is not necessarily a lemon,” Taylor added. “Usually the manufacturer is entitled to a reasonable opportunity to repair. If however, the defect is one which is life threatening or is likely to lead to serious bodily injury, the consumer may pursue a buyback without giving what is normally considered a reasonable opportunity to repair.”

A good rule of thumb for consumers would be: if you think you may be driving a lemon, contact a qualified lemon law attorney right away.

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