Often, an issue arises as to whether a consumer has given the manufacturer a “reasonable” number of repair opportunities. In short, it depends. The manufacturer must have at least two opportunities to repair the defect. In some cases (such as those involving brake failure), two repair attempts may be sufficient. In others (such as those dealing with mere annoyances), four or more may be necessary.
How the repair facility addresses the problem sometimes plays a factor as well. For example, if your vehicle is exhibiting an intermittent problem and the facility says it cannot duplicate it, you should continue to take the vehicle in and complain about it. In such a case, you may want to do so five or six times, or until the dealership refuses to look at the vehicle because it cannot find the problem.
This difficult question may sometimes be resolved by the (rebuttable) presumption set forth in the Tanner Consumer Protection Act (part of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act). This presumption applies if, within 18 months of the consumer’s purchase/lease or within 18,000 miles, whichever occurs first:
- the defect is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury and such defect has been subject to at least two repair attempts by the manufacturer (or its authorized repair facilities) and the consumer has notified the manufacturer directly of the need for repair;
- the same defect has been subject to at least four repair attempts by the manufacturer (or its authorized repair facilities) and the consumer has notified the manufacturer directly of the need for repair; or
- the vehicle is out of service for repairs for more than 30 days cumulatively since the purchase or lease and, if required by the warranty or owner’s manual, directly notify the manufacturer.
This presumption is rebuttable, meaning it does not apply where the manufacturer provides a “qualified third-party dispute resolution process” and the consumer does not participate in this process. If the manufacturer has a qualified third-party dispute resolution process, the consumer may still assert the presumption if he or she is dissatisfied with the third-party’s decision. There are downsides, however, to participating in such a program.
As a preliminary matter, the California Lemon Law does not require participation in the manufacturer’s dispute resolution program. It is entirely possible to prevail in a lemon-law action without resort to the Tanner Consumer Protection Act presumption. On the other hand, should a consumer lose in a manufacturer’s dispute resolution process, the manufacturer may use the adverse decision against the consumer at a subsequent trial to argue the vehicle is not a lemon.
If you are not sure if you have given the manufacturer a reasonable number of opportunities to repair a defect in your car, call us at 1-800-4NO-LEMON or complete our contact form, so our knowledgeable attorneys can provide you with a FREE case evaluation.