Niedermeier v. FCA U.S. LLC
Public Justice is co-counsel in this California Supreme Court appeal involving the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, popularly known as the “Lemon Law,” which provides remedies for consumers who purchase cars so defective that they cannot be repaired. The Lemon Law requires manufacturers to promptly repurchase these defective vehicles, or “lemons,” from consumers. Manufactures cannot re-sell lemons unless they are fixed (which they often can’t be) and then branded as lemons.
In this case, the car manufacturer (Chrysler) simply refused to buy back the plaintiff’s car, despite her sixteen failed repair attempts, leaving the plaintiff with no other choice but to sue. Because Chrysler still wouldn’t buy back the dangerous car, the plaintiff was finally forced to trade it in. She received an $18,000 credit for her lemon.
Then, after the jury returned a large verdict for the plaintiff, Chrysler asked for and received an $18,000 deduction in her damages award, which effectively rewarded it for its willful violation of the Lemon Law’s prompt-repurchase requirement. Not only does this decision violate the plain language of the Lemon Law which does not permit offsets, but it undermines the incentive structure it creates to force manufacturers to quickly relieve consumers of the faulty vehicles they sold them.
If this tactic is allowed to stand, it will radically undermine the Act and endanger public safety by giving car makers an incentive to refuse to get dangerous lemons off the road, in direct contravention to the Lemon Law’s text and overriding consumer-protection and public-safety goals.
- Leslie Brueckner
Steve Mikhov, Roger Kirnos, and Amy Morse of Knight Law Group LLP; Sepehr Daghighian and Erik K. Schmitt of Hackler Daghighian Martino & Novak P.C., and Cynthia E. Tobisman and Joseph V. Bui of Greines Martin Stein & Richland LLP.