Breach of Warranty vs. Lemon Law Claims

California Lemon Laws 101

Every state has some type of auto/vehicle-specific warranty laws that protect consumers from breach of warranty committed by the manufacturer. In California, these laws are found under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. The provisions of this act are contained within California Civil Code Title 1.7 Consumer Warranties. While this code covers a wide range of consumer warranty circumstances, it also includes motor-vehicle-specific provisions, also known as lemon laws.

Under this code, manufacturers are held responsible for fulfilling implied warranties of merchantability, fitness, and fitness of purpose. They are also required to carry out the terms of any express warranties associated with the product being sold.

Furthermore, no implied warranty can be waived unless the product is sold "as is" or "with all faults." To be sold "as is," there must be "conspicuous writing" attached to the goods being sold, clearly informing the buyer prior to the sale. The guidelines for an "as is" sale are covered in Section 1792.4.

Though this code is designed to protect consumers, it is also important to note that consumers bear some responsibility under California's lemon laws. They are required to prove that their vehicle's defect was substantial and that they notified and gave the manufacturer a reasonable opportunity to correct the problem.

What Is Required of the Manufacturer?

When it comes to fulfilling the implied and express warranties of a lemon, the manufacturer must either replace the defective part, replace the vehicle itself, or refund the seller the vehicle's purchase price. Additionally, the owner has the legal right to have their vehicle repurchased by the manufacturer after several unsuccessful repair attempts (this is called a lemon law buyback). When repurchasing, the manufacturer is responsible for initiating an appropriate offer to the consumer.

If you have a lemon, and the manufacturer refuses to either replace the vehicle or refund you, you have the option to file a civil suit under California's lemon laws.

If successful, the manufacturer may be legally required to:

  • Pay your damages and attorney's fees
  • Provide you with a replacement or a refund for the lemon vehicle
  • Pay a civil penalty

In California, a wide range of vehicles are covered by the lemon law, including motor vehicles, recreational vehicles, leased vehicles, and used vehicles. However, while these vehicle categories are covered, additional eligibility requirements must be met before you can file a lemon law claim.

To qualify as a lemon, the following must have occurred within the vehicle's first 18,000 miles or within 18 months of the purchase or lease date:

  • The manufacturer has made four attempts to correct the problem
  • When the defect or problem is so significant that it has the potential to cause injury or death, the manufacturer has attempted to correct the problem at least twice
  • The vehicle has been inoperable for at least 30 days due to the warranty issue
  • The warranty problem significantly reduces the value, safety, or use of the vehicle, and the problem has not occurred due to misuse of the vehicle by the consumer

For more information on lemon law qualifications, review our blog post here.

Filing Breach of Warranty in California

If you have issues with a vehicle but fall outside the eligibility criteria to file a lemon law claim, you may have other legal options. It is not uncommon for a vehicle's warranty to extend beyond the eligibility requirements for a lemon law claim. When this happens, you may be able to file a lawsuit citing a breach of warranty. As long as your vehicle is under warranty, the manufacturer has an obligation to make all repairs and fix all defects that are covered by the warranty.

If a manufacturer is found in breach of warranty, they may be held liable, and you may be awarded compensation for your associated damages. However, in California, you only have four years to bring a breach of warranty claim. If you believe your car's manufacturer has breached your warranty, you should reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will help you determine which type of claim you qualify for – lemon law or breach of warranty – and can represent you throughout the process.

To discuss your case with one of our experienced lawyers, contact Norman Taylor & Associates for help today.

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