Lemon Law Civil Penalty

Lemon Law Civil Penalty

By default, any vehicle owner who purchases a new vehicle or a used vehicle that is still under the manufacturer’s new car warranty may pursue a Lemon Law claim against the manufacturer. To bring a Lemon Law claim in San Diego, the vehicle owner must show that their vehicle has a defect or defects that persist and that the manufacturer cannot make the vehicle defect-free within a reasonable number of attempts to do so under warranty. However, manufacturers and auto distributors are extremely hesitant to buy back or refund the purchase price of a defective vehicle. And sometimes, in an effort to avoid doing so, vehicle manufacturers cross the line into illegal conduct that runs afoul of the civil penalty provision of the California Lemon Law. Read on to learn more about willful violations of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act and how they can result in owners recovering an additional amount of damages up to two times the amount of the purchase price of their vehicle. 

The knowledgeable San Diego Lemon Law attorneys at Wirtz Law, APC, have decades of combined experience successfully handling San Diego Lemon Law. Vehicle manufacturers devote tremendous resources to defending against Lemon Law claims, and it’s important you have a seasoned attorney who has the skill, dedication, and confidence necessary to make sure your claim receives the attention it deserves. The lawyers on our team have recovered more than $45 million in Lemon Law claims on behalf of our clients and look forward to learning more about your case. If your vehicle has recurring problems, your best decision is to contact Wirtz Law, APC, at 858-259-5009 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your options.

Lemon Law Damages

Under the California Lemon Law, if a car has a serious warranty defect or defects that the manufacturer or authorized dealer cannot fix after a reasonable number of attempts, the vehicle’s owner is entitled to a legal remedy. There are a few different types of remedies in a Lemon Law claim. 


A vehicle owner who purchased a lemon is entitled to have the manufacturer or dealer refund the purchase price of the vehicle or buy the vehicle back from the owner. These remedies, however, are subject to an offset for the owner’s use of the vehicle before the defect arose. 

Attorney’s Fees

Consumers who successfully pursue a Lemon Law claim against a vehicle manufacturer or dealer may be entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses. This enables vehicle owners to pursue a claim without fear that any award they receive would be eaten away by the cost of hiring a lawyer. This arrangement also enables California Lemon Law attorneys to take cases on a contingency basis, meaning the lawyer doesn’t charge any fee upfront for their services and only collects a fee if they are successful in obtaining compensation for their client. 

Incidental and Consequential Damages

Vehicle manufacturers may also be liable for incidental damages and consequential damages. Consequential damages refer to any damages or even expenses incurred as a result of the defect(s) or due to the delay in buying back your vehicle. For example, if your vehicle catches fire as a result of a defective fuel pump, any damage to other parts of the vehicle that were not under warranty—such as leather seats or a navigation system—could be included in a consequential damages award. 

Incidental damages, on the other hand, refer to those damages related to the inspection, repair, transportation, and storage of a defective vehicle. For example, if you racked up thousands of dollars in towing bills because your car kept breaking down on the side of the road, the towing expenses may be considered incidental damages. 

Civil Penalties

Civil penalties are designed to punish or deter a manufacturer from future violations of the California Lemon Law. A civil penalty is awarded in addition to a vehicle owner’s actual, incidental, and consequential damages when the buyer can show that the manufacturer willfully violated the California Lemon Law. 

A civil penalty can be any amount, provided it is not more than two times the amount of the owner’s actual, incidental, and consequential damages. Thus, the maximum recovery the buyer can recover in the California Lemon Law claim is three times these damages (a refund of the value of the vehicle plus twice that amount in civil penalties). 

What Constitutes Willful Failure to Comply with the CA Lemon Law?

While a vehicle owner can recover the cost of their vehicle any time a manufacturer sells a lemon, civil penalties can be awarded if the manufacturer willfully failed to comply with the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. In this context, a manufacturer willfully fails to comply with the Lemon Law if it “knew of its legal obligations and intentionally declined to follow them.” In other words, the manufacturer’s actions were not an accident and were taken intentionally. However, willful does not require a showing that the manufacturer acted maliciously or with bad faith; simply establishing that the company knew what it was doing was wrong is sufficient. 

Still, willful is hardly a self-defining term, and courts across California have had to interpret the meaning of the word as it’s used in the Lemon Law context. For example, in 2010, the 4th Appellate District found that a manufacturer that refused to repurchase or replace a vehicle without conducting an investigation or using its own records could be a willful violation of the Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. In that case, the court explained that “a decision made without the use of reasonably available information germane to that decision is not a reasonable, good faith decision.” 

Another example comes from a 2001 case, also out of the 4th Appellate District. In that case, the court explained that a manufacturer that intentionally makes it more difficult for a vehicle owner to successfully pursue a Lemon Law claim through the use of “hidden obstacles” could be a willful violation of the Lemon Law.  This could be as simple as making you take your car in for an extra repair attempt or perhaps offering a goodwill payment instead of a buyback offer.

Jury Selection in a San Diego Lemon Law Case

Not all Lemon Law cases go to trial. In fact, many are settled out of court. This is because settling a case makes the most sense for both the manufacturer and the vehicle owner in most situations. However, in the event that a manufacturer is unwilling to replace or repurchase a vehicle, owners may have little choice but to take the case to a jury. 

Before a jury trial begins, the parties, through their attorneys, select the jury. As any qualified San Diego Lemon Law trial attorney will tell you, jury selection in a Lemon Law case is incredibly important because the jurors will ultimately decide the outcome of the case. 

What to Look for in a San Diego Lemon Law Lawyer

When you are looking for a San Diego Lemon Law attorney, the first thing to look for is experience. While there are thousands of lemons sold each year, and many lawyers are capable of taking a Lemon Law case, this is a very nuanced area of the law, and not all that many attorneys focus their practice on these cases. So, while you won’t have any trouble finding an attorney to take your case, the question is, are they qualified? 

Another thing to consider when selecting a San Diego Lemon Law attorney is their track record. More specifically, you want to find a lawyer who has not only handled Lemon Laws cases but has done so successfully. One measure of an attorney’s abilities in this area is the frequency with which they have been able to secure civil penalties, as these damages are more difficult to obtain and illustrate an attorney’s willingness to go the extra mile for their client. 

Finally, when searching for any attorney, you want to make sure you find one that is available to take your calls, answer your questions and provide you with frequent case updates. 

At Wirtz Law, APC, our dedicated San Diego Lemon Law lawyers have been handling defective vehicle claims on behalf of California consumers for decades. Over this time, we’ve come to learn how to prove Lemon Law cases, what negotiation strategies work the best, and what’s most important to our clients. We have also been successful in obtaining civil penalty damages for our clients in settlements and jury verdicts.

How the Lemon Law Process Works with Wirtz Law, APC

We’ve also developed an efficient and effective way of handling these cases to minimize any burden placed on our clients. First, you schedule a free consultation by giving us a call or filling out our secure contact form. If you decide to move forward with your case, we immediately go to work for you, using our knowledge, experience, and resources to hold big automakers accountable for selling you a defective vehicle. We also keep you informed at every step of the way so you never have to wonder what’s going on with your case. Finally, if we successfully negotiate your claim with the vehicle manufacturer, you will have gotten the results you’re looking for. And, of course, if the manufacturer doesn’t make a fair settlement offer, our experienced litigators will shift gears and take your case to trial in pursuit of the compensation you are rightfully entitled to. 

Learn More About Your San Diego Lemon Law Case by Calling Wirtz Law, APC

If you recently purchased a vehicle, have experienced repeated trips to the shop, and are getting the run-around from the dealer or manufacturer, pursuing a Lemon Law claim including a civil penalty may be your best option. At Wirtz Law, APC, we are immediately available to meet with you to discuss your case and go over your options. Your initial consultation is free, and there is no obligation to move forward with your case unless that is what you decide to do. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, make your best decision to contact Wirtz Law, APC, at 858-259-5009. You can also connect with us through our secure online contact form.

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