California’s lemon law applies to new cars, used cars, and now, we have come to the era where lemon law applies to self-driven cars!
In May 2016, a California man filed a claim that “his $162,000 Tesla Model X exhibits ‘weird’ behavior and is dangerous to drive.”
The owner of the Tesla Model X car, Barrett Lyon, filed suit at Placer County Court in Roseville, CA. He claimed that his vehicle’s doors shut on his leg and subsequently, damaged his property. He insisted that the software for the auto-park feature did not work properly and it stopped short of driving autonomously into the garage. More importantly, the alleged defects substantially impaired Mr. Lyon’s use, value, or safety, and that Tesla was given more than a reasonable opportunity to find and fix the alleged defects.
Some of the other problem areas that Lyon cited in the lemon lawsuit were:
- the doors have “slammed shut” on his wife;
- the doors unexpectedly flung open in their garage (damaging the Tesla and other property);
- the Autopilot in the rain was excessively dangerous, noting that “it causes the car to swerve into different lanes;”
- the power front doors were opening into cars (and other items);
- the center touch screen repeatedly and intermittently froze;
- the Autopark had a failure rate of 90%;
- the 2nd row seat unintentionally forced the driver’s seat to fold forward, etc.
In this case, all the consumer sought was a simple refund of his purchase price, due to substantial impairment to his use, value, and safety. Pursuant to the California lemon law, the refund should include any down payment, finance payments, pay-off of the vehicle loan, registration fees, along with the lawyer’s fees, costs and expenses. As part of the refund, the California lemon law mandates the manufacturer pay for the consumer’s attorneys’ fees.
In this particular case, the customer argued that the car’s problems were recurring, unfixable, and rendered it unsafe for driving. Moreover, it was known to Telsa other customers had similar issues with the Model X.
To help prove his case to Tesla, that the California lemon law was applicable, Mr. Lyon captured the problem in a video. This video helped to demonstrate the flawed self-parking feature.
Video Link: https://youtu.be/pYJqej_ER2E
It is not like the California man never bought another vehicle from Tesla. At the time of his California lemon law claim, he already had two more models – the Roadster and Model S. However, those two models were not defective.
Mr. Lyon’s complaint was not unprecedented, nor the only Tesla owner alleging problems. In early 2014, there was a Model S owner who claimed the California lemon law should apply to a newly bought vehicle. In response to the consumer initiating a California lemon law claim, by all accounts, the manufacturer settled the lemon law claim quietly–by agreeing to buy the car back for an undisclosed amount.
Now that is the power of California’s lemon law (helping California’s consumers force manufacturers to take back their defective and unsafe vehicles), provided you (1) are thorough with its nitty-gritty, and most importantly, (2) hire the right lawyer.
For those who are not entirely aware, here’s what the California Lemon Law covers:
The formal legal name given to the California lemon law by our state legislature is the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. It is applicable to all the consumer goods, which are sold at retail in California and covered by an express written warranty. In particular, the act states that when; (1) a new motor vehicle, (2) is sold in California, (3) accompanied by an express written warranty, (4) the manufacturer must buy back or replace the vehicle if it is not able to repair the vehicle after a reasonable number of attempts.
Vehicles covered under California Lemon Law (with a manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty) include:
- Cars, vans, SUVs, pickup trucks.
- Chassis, chassis cab, drivetrain of a motorhome.
- Dealer-owned vehicle and demonstrators.
- Several vehicles purchased or leased mainly for business purposes.
- Vehicles purchased or leased for personal, family, or household purposes.
The incident with Tesla Model X is among the many lawsuits people file to get their money back for defective automobiles. Easier said than done, these are some of the handiest tips of all time to ensure that even when you end up with a lemon, you can still find your way out of all that mess.
Some Quick Tips To Deal With a Lemon Vehicle
- Make sure that you do thorough research and find out all about the vehicle. For instance, whether the vehicle already has claims made as pursuant to the lemon law of the state where you reside.
- One of the easiest ways to find out whether or not your vehicle has been classified as a lemon according to the lemon law of the state, look for the “lemon law” branding on the title.
- As a rule, take the test drive of the vehicle that you want to purchase. Do this especially when you are going to buy a used vehicle.
- Keep all the documents of the car handy for quick reference in case you are filing a lemon law suit.
Lesson learned from this episode is that when life gives you a lemon, get the help and support of California lemon law attorneys (or lawyers in your state), who can help you battle it out and fight for your rights!
Author Bio: Brian K. Cline is the founding partner at Cline, APC, dba Pecora & Cline, a California Lemon Law Legal Group. His firm represents clients throughout California.