Does the California Lemon Law Apply to Vehicles Purchased Outside of California?

THE CALIFORNIA LEMON LAW REQUIRES THAT THE LEMON VEHICLE MUST HAVE BEEN “SOLD” IN CALIFORNIA

There are portions of the California lemon law statute that suggest that the California lemon law might apply to vehicles purchased outside of California, and then subsequently brought into this State by a California resident; however, in the case of Cummins, Inc. v. Superior Court, 36 Cal.4th 478 (2005) the California Supreme Court determined that other sections of the Act are more definite, and thus in order for the California lemon law to apply the defective car or truck must have been “sold” in California.

What Does “Sold in California” Mean Under the California Lemon Law?

It is usually pretty clear whether or not a car or truck was sold in this State, but in some cases it can be less so, particularly when a consumer buys a vehicle in a transaction designed to avoid California sales tax.  The decision in Gusse v. Damon Corp., 470 F.Supp.2d 1110 (C.D. Cal. 2007) interpreted the Cummins v. Superior Court decision, and provided further guidance on what “sold in California” means.  Specifically, it means the physical location where legal title to the vehicle passes from the seller to the buyer.  Under California Commercial Code Section 2401(2), title passes from the buyer to the seller at the place where the seller completes his or her delivery of the vehicle.  So if the consumer takes delivery of the vehicle at the dealership lot, then that is the place of sale.  If the buyer arranges to have the vehicle delivered, then: (1) if the sales contract requires the seller to deliver the vehicle to the buyer, but does not specify the location for delivery, then sale takes place from the place where the seller ships the goods; and (2) if the sales contract specifies a location for delivery to the buyer, then that location is the place of sale.

Other Lemon Law Rules Applicable to Out-of-State Vehicles

The California Supreme Court’s decision in Cummins v. Superior Court also provided additional guidance relating to out-of-state sales that may be applicable in a small number of cases.  Specifically, the California Supreme Court clarified: (1) that the vehicle buyer need not be a California resident in order for the California lemon law to apply; and (2) that all the attempts to repair the vehicle’s defect (or defects) need not take place in California, so long as at least one repair attempt took place in California.


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