CALIFORNIA “LEMON LAW” OVERVIEW
California “lemon law” is, in a nutshell, consumer warranty law—consumers sue manufacturers for breach of warranty. The law stems from the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (California Civil Code sections 1790-1795.5). The lemon law provides protections for consumers who've purchased defective “goods” that are still under the manufacturer’s warranties. In other words, folks didn’t get what they paid for. Because consumers got a sour deal, the defective goods were coined “lemons.”
Most commonly, lemons apply to motor vehicles. But, the law also applies to RVs, boats, motorcycles, pianos, air conditioners, TVs (you name it!). Whatever you purchased, if there’s a serious enough issue and it’s covered by a warranty, then here are the big questions:
Did the manufacturer or dealer fix the problem?
Did they do so within a reasonable time period?
In sum, the lemon law provides that manufacturers get a reasonable number of repair attempts to fix the defect. What's considered "reasonable" depends—the more serious the issues, the less repair attempts and time they get. When they fail, manufacturers must promptly provide consumers a refund or replacement.
Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s more complicated than it seems. Manufacturers generally dispute whether their product is defective in the first place. When they acknowledge there’s an issue, they dispute whether it’s serious enough or claim it has been fixed. Even when there’s no dispute a substantial issue exists, they claim no reasonable opportunity to fix has been given yet.
There are decades' worth of lemon law cases. The analysis is not black and white; there’s plenty of grey area for lawyers to make arguments on both sides. A lot of these cases have gone to trial and continue to be litigated through trial, which is why lawyers are needed.