Lemon Law Attorneys
When people think of San Francisco they have images of hills and cable cars but rarely cars. If you live there, however, you know people drive. There are 900,000 people in the city of San Francisco, they own 500,000 cars. Public transportation is great when you need to get around the city, but you need a car to get to the Redwoods, the vineyards, and everywhere in between.
Of course, when you have a new vehicle that doesn’t always start; or bucks and accelerates without warning; or has computer issues, you’re not leaving the city.
Vehicles with issues that make them unreliable or unsafe or always seem to be ‘in the shop’ could be lemons. You do not have to put up with the stress and frustration these vehicles cause. The California Lemon was designed to be powerful enough to rectify the problem.
The attorneys at the Gayle Law Group PC have over two decades of experience resolving Lemon Law cases for San Francisco consumers. We have successfully represented owners and lessees of all makes and models of gas, electric, and hybrid vehicles; motorcycles; trucks, and RVs.
Liz Gayle, our founder, represented major product manufacturers, including a well-known automobile maker, over the first 12 years of her career before devoting herself to consumer law. She knows how the manufacturers think and act when faced with a Lemon complaint.
If your vehicle isn’t what you thought you were buying, it’s time to talk to a California Lemon Law attorney. It’s time to call the Gayle Law Group PC.
The California Lemon Law
The first mass produced cars came off assembly lines in 1913. A Ford could be built in 1 hour and thirty-three minutes. It’s easy to imagine the mistakes that were made. There have always been lemons: vehicles that were poorly designed, or had a defect, or just did not run. Until 1970, about the only thing a driver could do was to threaten to never buy that model again.
That had no effect on manufacturers that were selling thousands of cars.
California was one of the first states in the nation to rectify that. The California Lemon Law was enacted in 1970 to provide drivers with relief from persistent problems with their vehicles.
What exactly does the Lemon Law do? The simple answer:
If you purchased or leased a new or used vehicle in California that is under a warranty and has had an ongoing problem or problems that a dealer has failed to fix after multiple repair visits, you may qualify for compensation.
The California Lemon Law applies to cars, trucks, vans, SUVs, RVs, motorcycles, some business-owned vehicles, and boats. It applies to purchased or leased new vehicles. It also pertains to used vehicles that are certified pre-owned and/or still under a manufacturer’s warranty.
To be eligible for relief the vehicle must be under a manufacturer’s warranty. There is always some confusion over this requirement. Simply, cars, trucks, and the powertrain portions of motorhomes are covered by the Lemon Law if:
- The vehicle is new, used, pre-owned or certified.
- You bought or leased it.
- When you bought or leased the vehicle it was covered by the manufacturer’s warranty (or portion of), or a manufacturer’s extended warranty.
- The vehicle might qualify out of warranty, if it had an ongoing problem that required it to be in the shop several times before the warranty expired.
- The manufacturer has had a reasonable number of opportunities to repair the defect.
- Or the vehicle has been in ‘the shop’ for thirty or more days, cumulatively.
Motorcycles, the coach portion of a mobile home and towables (fifth-wheel trailers, toy haulers, travel trailers and pop-up campers) are considered consumer goods and have the same protections as other consumer goods sold with manufacturers warranties.
What is a Lemon?
There is no single or easy answer. The Lemon Law requires both a substantial defect and either that the vehicle is not repaired after multiple attempts to get it fixed or it has been at the dealership for many days cumulatively.
Substantial defects impair the vehicle’s “use, value, or safety.”
- A defect that affects a vehicle’s use is one that prevents you from driving the vehicle as it was intended to be driven.
- A vehicle’s value is diminished when the defect means the vehicle won’t sell for the price it normally would bring - if the defect weren’t there.
- Safety defects are defects that put the driver, passengers, and other drivers in danger.
A transmission that hesitates; a gas pedal that sticks; faulty warning lights; an engine that runs hot; all qualify as substantial. The issue doesn’t have to be safety related to qualify.
The vehicle is not repaired after multiple attempts is exactly what it sounds like. The dealer is unable to fix the problem. You bring the vehicle in for repairs only to have to do it again a few days later. It can seem like an endless cycle. You do not need to put up with it.
A common myth states “if you bring it in four times, it’s automatically a lemon.” It’s not necessarily true. The law only specifies that a ‘reasonable number of repair attempts’ are made. If a defect involves a safety issue, such as faulty airbags, it may only require two repair attempts. If the vehicle has been in ‘the shop’ for more than thirty days, cumulative, whatever the defect(s), it may also qualify as a lemon.
The average 21st century gas powered car and truck has over 30,000 parts. From nuts and bolts to brake pads to computer motherboards and Wi-Fi routers. There are at least 2,000 moving parts.
All vehicles today are better built, safer, with more integrated systems than ever. In 2020 8.8 million vehicles were manufactured in the United States. It's inevitable that some things will go wrong somewhere along the way.
The Gayle Law Group, PC has watched vehicles become ever more sophisticated and complex. We’ve kept pace with every change, and we’ve had lemon law experience with all of them.
Common Vehicle Defects in the 2020s (so far)
- Air bag defects.
- Air conditioning.
- Antilock braking system (ABS).
- Automatic transmission.
- Computer defects.
- Electrical problems.
- Engine fire.
- Power steering.
- Seat belts.
- Sudden acceleration and surge.
Electric and Hybrid Vehicle DefectsEleven percent of the cars in San Francisco are electric, the highest concentration in the nation. Where gas powered vehicles have over 2,000 moving parts, electric vehicles have less than 20. That does not mean electric and hybrid vehicles have fewer problems. The systems in these vehicles are so integrated even a ‘minor’ problem can have widespread and lasting implications.
- Automatic Backup Automation.
- Battery Failure.
- Braking System.
- Computer issues.
- Electrical System Malfunctions.
- Failure to Hold a Charge.
Motorcycles enjoy the same protection as cars under the California Lemon Law but in a slightly different way. (They are also a great way to get around San Francisco). Motorcycles are ‘consumer goods’ and have the same protections as other consumer goods sold with a manufacturer’s warranty.
Every rider knows that what may be a minor defect in a car could be a serious safety hazard on a bike. The Lemon Law works for motorcycle enthusiasts.
What Makes a Motorcycle a Lemon?
A motorcycle is a lemon if it was bought new, is under warranty, doesn’t perform like it is supposed to, and you’ve tried to have it repaired and have been unsuccessful.
A motorcycle may be a lemon if:
- The motorcycle you’re riding isn’t the bike as described in the warranty.
- There is a ‘substantial defect’ that is a safety issue. Or affects your use of the bike or its value.
- The motorcycle has gone to the repair shop multiple times and the problem persists.
- You have not been able to operate the bike for at least thirty days. Note that motorcycle repairs take substantially longer than car repairs. Not being able to use a bike for thirty days or more is not uncommon.
- You haven’t done anything to cause or contribute to the problem. Modifications, an accident, or neglecting regular maintenance void the warranty.
Common Motorcycle DefectsMotorcycle defects that have led to Lemon Law claims:
- Loss of power.
- Defective head gaskets.
- Defective fuel pump.
- Cutting out.
- Will not start.
- No crank conditions.
- Oil leaks or sprays.
- Lack of power.
- Electrical system malfunctions.
Trucks are covered under the California Lemon Law.
Because trucks have high safety ratings, are built to be rugged and ruggedly used, sometimes for business, many truck owners think the lemon law doesn’t apply to their vehicle.
That’s not true, the Lemon Law protects drivers if the trucks do not meet safety or other performance standards.
What Makes a Truck a Lemon?
- The gross weight of the truck is less than 10,000 pounds.
- The business has five or fewer vehicles registered in its name in California.
Like cars, trucks that fall under the Lemon Law are considered ‘lemons’ if they have a substantial defect that impairs their “use, value, or safety” and multiple attempts to fix it have failed.
RVs, Motorhomes, and Towables
Motorized RVs are Class A, B, and C vehicles. Towables include fifth-wheel trailers, toy haulers, travel trailers and pop-up campers.
No matter what type of RV or motorhome or trailer you have, they are major investments. Owners rely on them when they travel. Sometimes far off the beaten path.
If things can go wrong families could be stranded in the wilderness, stuck in the desert without water or plumbing, exposed to the elements, or, at the very least, forced to cancel vacations. It’s infuriating when your investment is in the repair shop more than it is on vacation.
There are, thankfully, remedies available to RV, motorhome, and towable owners.
RVs and motorhomes are covered under the California Lemon Law . . . but it’s a bit complicated. Towables are covered as consumer goods and have the same protections as other consumer goods sold with a manufacturer’s warranty.
What Makes My RV/Motorhome/Towable a Lemon?
The chassis of a Class A, B, and C motorized RVs fall under the Lemon Law just as cars and trucks do. The coach is considered ‘consumer goods.’
Here’s what that means for your RV:
The chassis – engine, drive train, everything that makes the RV mobile - is a ‘lemon’ if it has a substantial defect that impairs its “use, value, or safety” and multiple attempts to fix it have failed.
Few attempts suffice when the defect is a serious safety issue: anything that puts the driver and passengers in danger. The RV may also be a lemon if it has been in the shop for an excessive number of days – even if the repairs were for different issues.
In fact, in the first 18 months or 18,000 miles (whichever comes first), if the defect remains despite your best efforts or there’s been a series of unending problems, the RV is presumed to be a lemon. Then, it's up to the manufacturers to prove it's not.
The coach and towables – Simply, if you bought the RV or towable new, it’s under warranty, doesn’t perform like it is supposed to due to defects, you’ve tried to have it repaired and have been unsuccessful, the RV can qualify as a lemon.
Electrical and plumbing issues, tank leaks, hookups that consistently fail, slide-outs that won’t work, heating and air conditioning failures are all covered.
What to Do If You Think You Have a Lemon
Document, document, document . . . and call Gayle Law Group PC.
The only one who can document what you are going through with your vehicle is you. You will not get help from the dealership or manufacturer. You need to be proactive; you’ll need to ask the dealership for the documentation you are entitled to at every visit.
Get the repair order and invoice every time you take your vehicle in and pick it up. Even if they don’t fix the problem ‘that day’ and don’t charge you, ask for an invoice.
Don’t allow the dealership to leave your ticket “open” while a part is being ordered. Get an invoice then and when the part comes in and the work is done. Remember, every visit counts as a ‘reasonable attempt.’
Even if you look over a service manager’s shoulder to see their computer screen, make sure that they enter a ‘complete and accurate description of your vehicle’s problem’ as you described it.
Don’t keep your service repair records in your glove compartment or center console. We hope the reasons for this are obvious – (they can mysteriously disappear while your vehicle is in the shop.)
Document all calls with the dealer and manufacturer; get the name and title of everyone you talk to.
When a dealer, salesperson, manager, or manufacturer’s rep tries to explain any aspect of the California Lemon Law, don’t listen. They’re not lawyers.
But they are potential defendants in a lawsuit.
The manufacturer pays all your legal fees and expenses when we bring a successful Lemon Law action. Some San Francisco lawyers ask for a retainer or tell you they work on a contingency fee. The Gayle Law Group PC is paid by the manufacturer when your case is resolved.
You are never responsible for any legal fees for our representation.
California Lemon Law remedies may include:
- A complete purchase refund (including registration fees, the down payment, and financing costs) AND having the full balance of your loan/lease paid off in full.
- OR a replacement vehicle.
Again, in addition, regardless of the solution, the manufacturer is responsible for attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses.