Frequently Asked Questions – Lemon Law

Q – What is the lemon law and what is a lemon?

A – Lemon laws are a collection of statutes and court cases that protect buyers and lessees who have purchased a consumer good, such as a motor vehicle, a children’s toy, a lawnmower, or a computer. This area of law is also known as consumer warranty law.  A lemon is a term that is often used to describe a motor vehicle that does not meet the express warranties and promises of the seller, lessor, manufacturer or distributor to the buyer’s satisfaction during the warranty period.  For motor vehicles, the warranty period is typically expressed in miles shown on the odometer or number of days, months or years from date of purchase or lease, whichever occurs first.

Q – To start my case, must I know what is wrong with my vehicle?

A – No, it is not the burden of the buyer or lessee of a motor vehicle to understand what is wrong, how to fix it, or what the authorized dealer did that allowed the problems to persist.  At some point, the attorney may consult or retain a repair expert, in which case, the expert will testify on certain areas of expertise that may assist the judge or jury.

Q – How much will I need to pay up front have Robert Stempler represent me?

A – Nothing for lemon law cases! Indeed, the costs, expenses and legal fees will be paid from any sums that we receive from the other side on an approved settlement or towards the final judgment.  The statute provides that the consumer may recover his or her legal fees, costs and expenses, so I would not advise anyone to try to handle a motor vehicle lemon law case without having an attorney on your side, with the possible exception of small claims court.

Q – My car was repossessed when I could not afford the payments, do I still have a claim?

A – In a lemon law case under California law, the consumer is not required to have possession of the vehicle in order to recover their damages.  However, there may be challenges when the subject vehicle has not been preserved, maintained and made available for inspection by experts.  If there is a buy-back settlement or a favorable judgment for the buyer/lessee, most likely that will include payoff in full of any outstanding installment loan or lease contract on the vehicle and payback to the client of their down payment and monthly payments. Thus, making those payments not only protects your credit history on that account, but the payments would likely be refunded as part of the settlement or judgment. Other amounts, such as DMV fees, are also recoverable from the other side, so would be good to keep the registration current, if you still possess the vehicle. Of course, results will differ based on different facts.

Q – I lost, after I tried to handle my case through the BBB Auto Line, can I still sue?

A – Yes, you may.  BBB is not the final word if they find in favor of the manufacturer/ distributor.  The buyer can also have an attorney represent them to the BBB Auto Line. The consumer can thereafter pursue the company in court if the company won, whereas the company must accept the BBB’s decision if the consumer wins and accepts it. The consumer may also reject a BBB final decision.

Q – Is a small business vehicle also subject to the California lemon law?

A – Yes.  In addition to protecting consumers, the California lemon law specifically protects a business having under five vehicles registered in this state.  California also has commercial laws that apply to any product that is sold with a warranty. There are major differences between the commercial code and the California lemon law.