California Lemon Law: Do I Have a Case?

The first question and most common question I get is: Do I have a case under the California lemon law? It’s a complicated question involving a lot of different factors. But the first thing that we’re looking at and probably the most important thing is how many repair attempts have there been under warranty to the vehicle? And repair attempts are not just for one problem repair attempts are for the vehicle as a whole that does not include a service like an oil change but it is counted as a repair attempt anytime the vehicle is presented for repair of a problem whether or not the dealership can duplicate the problem or performs a repair we want to know how many times a particular issue has been complained about at the dealership. If we have a confirmation of that in writing through a repair order that’s great we always look at the repair orders. And if there are repair attempts where the dealership actually attempts to repair that’s also good but repairs under the Lemon Law include each presentation for repair and not just a number of times that the dealership performs a repair. So that’s the first question, how many repair attempts have been performed on the vehicle?

The second question is whether those repair attempts have occurred during the warranty period. Lemon Law is always concerned with repairs under warranty. And so, typically a vehicle is going to have a bumper to bumper warranty for three years and 36,000 miles and then we’re going to count up the repair attempts within that period of time.

The third thing we’re going to look at is what have the defects involved? Are they serious? And there’s a sliding scale there. There’s a difference between a shake or rattle and what might be a reasonable number of repair attempts in that context versus a stalling issue where the vehicle is shutting down on the road and it might involve safety and what would be a reasonable number repair attempts for a problem like that.

Under law there is a presumption that four or more repair attempts in the first year and a half or 18,000 miles of use qualifies the vehicle as a lemon under our law but I would also say that probably 80% of my cases do not need that presumption. There is another presumption regarding days in the shop we’re also going to look at how much time has the vehicle spent out of service because of these repair attempts and 30 days in the shop again in that same year and a half or 18,000 miles qualifies the vehicle for a Lemon and again I would say 90% or 95% of my cases don’t need that 30 days standard it’s not required. The standard is when has a reasonable number of repair attempts been exceeded.