Under the California Lemon Law, a consumer of new or used vehicles is afforded protection from a vehicle manufacturer that produces a materially defective product. Consumers can petition the court or an arbitrator to force a manufacturer to financially compensate them for damages they have sustained in purchasing or leasing a vehicle that proves to be materially defective. At the same time, manufacturers are provided an opportunity to address problems with the vehicle in an attempt to correct any defects. Specifically, the lemon law states that a manufacturer, or its agent, shall be allowed a reasonable number of repairs to conform the motor vehicle to the express written warranty provided at the time of purchase. This provision is often referred to as a reasonable number of repairs.
Because there is often confusion arising under the lemon law as to what is considered a reasonable number of repairs, consumers should enlist the aid of an experienced and knowledgeable lemon law attorney. In an attempt to mitigate this confusion, the California Legislature drafted the lemon law presumption, which provides guidance to consumers and manufacturers in defining a reasonable number of repairs. However, this presumption often contributes to consumer’s confusion because consumers believe that if they do not meet the conditions under the presumption, they will not have a valid claim under the lemon law. Experienced lemon law attorneys are familiar with decisions made by judges and arbitrators and can advise their clients as to whether they have requested a reasonable number of repairs. This presumption was drafted to provide guidance in narrowing down what is considered reasonable and experienced attorneys can advise clients; however, a judge or an arbitrator will ultimately make the final decision as to whether this threshold has been met.
The lemon law presumption considers whether the materially defective vehicle is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury when determining whether there have been a reasonable number of repairs. The presumption requires consumers of materially defective vehicles, where the defect islikely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle is driven, to have taken the vehicle in for at least two repair attempts and to have directly informed the manufacturer of the problem and the need for repair. Where the defect is not one that is likely to result in death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle was driven, the consumer must bring the vehicle to the manufacturer, or its agent, for at least four repair attempts and advise the manufacturer of the defect and the need for repair.
There has been a lot of debate over what constitutes a reasonable number of repairs under the lemon law. While judges and arbitrators have heard many cases, there, unfortunately, is no clear-cut answer to what is considered reasonable repair attempts. Because this remains a factual question that must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, consumers would greatly benefit from the advice and guidance of an experienced lemon law attorney.