Time Limits for Filing a California Lemon Law Lawsuit
Owning a lemon vehicle is frustrating and time-consuming. As a result, some lemon vehicle owners delay in pursuing their legal rights, and then wonder if they have waited too long to file a California lemon law lawsuit. Whether you have waited too long involves consideration of two things: (1) the statute of limitations applicable to the California lemon law; and (2) how delaying might lower your chances of getting a lemon law buyback.
The Statute of Limitation Imposes a Four Year Absolute Deadline for Filing California Lemon Law Claims
The statute of limitations imposes the absolute limit for how long a lemon vehicle owner has to file a lawsuit under the California lemon law. If a consumer fails to bring a lemon law claim within the applicable statute of limitations, then the claim cannot be brought, even if it has merit and the vehicle is clearly a lemon.
The California lemon law statute does not contain a provision that expressly states how long consumers have to file a claim under the lemon law in California. Accordingly, vehicle manufacturers initially tried to argue that the three-year limitation period generally applicable to legal causes of action based on California statutes applies. However, in the case of Krieger v. Nick Alexander Imports, Inc., 234 Cal.App.3d 205 (1991) the California Court of Appeal held that since a lemon law claim is essentially a claim for breach of warranty, the four-year statute of limitations applicable to breach of warranty lawsuits under California Commercial Code Section 2725(a) applies. As a result, a consumer who intends to file a lawsuit under the lemon law in California has a maximum of four years to bring the lawsuit.
Four-Year Limit Applies to California Lemon Law Civil Penalty Claims As Well
The four-year statute of limitations applies to all aspects of a California lemon law claim. That is, vehicle manufacturer also previously attempted to argue that although the California lemon law’s general statute of limitations is four years, that claims for a California lemon law civil penalty are governed by the one-year statute of limitations because that is the limit for California statutes that impose a forfeiture or penalty. However, in the case of Jensen v. BMW of North America, Inc., 35 Cal.App.4th 112 (1995), the Court of Appeal rejected the manufacturer’s arguments, and confirmed that the four-year statute of limitations applies to ALL aspects of a California lemon law lawsuit.
The California Lemon Law’s Statute of Limitations Begins to Run When the Consumer Should Have Known That His or Her Vehicle Was a Lemon
Of course, in order to calculate when the four-year statute of limitations applicable to California lemon law claims expires, you need to know when it starts to run. Vehicle manufacturers initially tried to argue that the California lemon law’s statute of limitations should begin to run from the date of the vehicle’s purchase or lease. However, in the case of Krieger v. Nick Alexander Imports, Inc., 234 Cal.App.3d 205 (1991) the California Court of Appeal ruled that the statute of limitations for a claim under the lemon law in California begins to run from the date when a reasonable consumer would have known that the manufacturer was unable to fix his or her vehicle.
Accordingly, the statute of limitations for the lemon law in California is not a precise, objectively determined date. Since it begins to run when a consumer should have known that his or her car was a lemon, there is a lot of room for vehicle owners and manufacturers to argue about when the California lemon law’s statute of limitations began to run.
If you have statute of limitations questions relating to the California lemon law, then you should contact an expert California lemon law attorney. The Vachon Law Firm specializes in California lemon law claims, and offers FREE consultations. Call 1-855-4-LEMON-LAW (1-855-453-6665) to discuss all of your California lemon law questions.
Making a Lemon Law Claim With the Manufacturer (as Opposed to Filing a Lawsuit) Does Not Extend the Statute of Limitations
Another important thing to remember is that the California lemon law’s statute of limitations governs how long you have to file a lawsuit under the California lemon law. Merely initiating a claim with the manufacturer does not count as starting a claim under the lemon law for California statute of limitations purposes.
Accordingly, if the California lemon law’s four-year statute of limitations is approaching for you, then contact a California lemon lawyer immediately to discuss you legal rights. Do NOT merely call the manufacturer and ask for a lemon law buyback. That does not prevent the California lemon law’s statute of limitations from expiring.
You Shouldn’t Delay in Bringing a California Lemon Law Claim – Even if You Are Within the Four-Year Statute of Limitations – Because it Can Reduce Your Chances of Getting a Lemon Law Buyback
Even though you have up to four years to file a lawsuit under the lemon law in California, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take action as soon as you can. The strength of your California lemon law claim may, in some cases, be reduced if you wait a significant period of time before seeking a lemon law buyback.
In particular, as set forth on this site’s page discussing How Serious Does a Defect Have to Be Under the California Lemon Law, in order to qualify for a lemon law buyback in California the defect must substantially impair the “use, value, or safety” of the automobile. Proving this can be more difficult if you delayed for a long time prior to filing a lemon law claim. That is, the manufacturer will likely point to all the miles that you drove the vehicle, and argue that this proves there was no substantial impairment of the vehicle’s use or safety.
Accordingly, if you think that your vehicle might qualify as a “lemon” under California law, then call an experienced California lemon law attorney to discuss your legal rights. The Vachon Law Firm offers FREE California lemon law consultations. Call 1-855-4-LEMON-LAW (1-855-453-6665) to find out whether you are entitled to a lemon law buyback and monetary compensation.
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