In a victory for consumers, the California Court of Appeal yesterday published an opinion holding that the owner of a lemon car need not own the car in order to claim lemon law benefits The plaintiff owner of the car had repeatedly tried to get an electrical problem fixed. Ultimately, the owner left the car at Kia of Temecula and stopped making payments on her car loan. The finance company repossessed the car. After the repossession, the car was towed to Kia of Glendale where a technician finally figured out the problem was in the alternator had been overcharging and causing damage to electrical components.
The parties apparently reached a settlement subject to the Court of Appeal determining if the owner of a lemon car must own the car to claim lemon law remedies. (This issue has been remained undecided until now even though the lemon law has been in existence since 1971). The appellate court ruled for consumers on the issue presented.
In its opinion, the Court emphasizes that the lemon law is strongly pro-consumer and should be interpreted to protect consumers. The Court said that ruling that consumers had to own the car at the time they claim lemon law remedies would "have a chilling effect on the availability of the Act's remedies" and that ruling Kia's way might mean a consumer unfairly would have to continue paying on a defective car that the manufacturer could not repair in order to obtain a remedy under the law.
The case is Martinez v Kia Motors of America. The opinion includes a fine overview of the law. The text of the key parts of the opinion is at the jump.