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What are Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) and how do they affect Lemon Law?

Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs) are technical publications from an automobile manufacturer that identify commonly observed issues in a particular range of vehicles and provide diagnostic and repair instruction.

TSBs are used to explain to dealerships and other repair facilities how to repair known issues in a vehicle.  When there are numerous TSBs for the same issue, it may show that the manufacturer is constantly assessing, analyzing and updating repair procedures for a persistent problem.  TSBs can also relate to Recalls.

If you would like help figuring out out a TSB repair may affect your lemon law claim, contact us today for an evaluation.  

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Update: FCA (Jeep – Chrysler – Ram) ZF 9HP Class Action Settlement

We have previously written about how class actions affect individual lemon law claims and about the FCA ZF 9HP class action specifically.  This is an update.  

It appears the class settlement was in fact approved by the Court, or at least that FCA took action on it.  A company called Dahl Administration LLC is administering the settlement claims process, including notification about the right to opt out.  

Choosing to remain in the settlement and receive a smaller cash payment or coupon, or to opt out and potentially seek a buyback in a lemon law claim is an important decision.  If you do nothing and remain in the settlement, it is possible Dahl Administration will determine that you receive no cash compensation whatsoever. Missing the chance to opt out is something we have seen consumers regret once they understand what their lemon law rights are.  

What’s interesting is that it appears the settlement was only approved at the end of November 2018, and yet the opt-out deadline was January 2, 2019.  This means that FCA and Dahl Administration only had slightly more than a month to notify class members of the important effects of the class settlement on their individual rights.  Further, that notice period just happened to overlap three major holidays.

What are the chances that consumers were properly notified?  Furthermore, what are the chances that FCA cares? They will surely argue that lemon law rights were wiped out by the failure to opt out, whether the notice was viable or not.

In answering these questions, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Check out this opt out notice.

Granillo, et al. v. FCA US LLC, et al. Opt Out Notice

Note the postmark date (1/14/19) versus the opt out date (1/2/19).   It would be tough to opt out two weeks after the deadline has passed, unless you have a time machine handy.  

Somehow, we don’t think think it was lost on FCA or Dahl Administration that they were mailing notice of the opt out deadline after it was impossible to meet.  

Our office has seen FCA use other class settlements administered by Dahl Administration to try to defeat lemon law claims.  Often consumers are shocked when they learned that they were supposedly notified in advance.

So what should you do if you receive a late opt out notice?  First, make sure to save it. Documentation is critical. Second, all of the facts of your claim have to be taken into account to determine how the settlement may affect your individual lemon law claims. Because the opt out deadline is technically already passed, the sooner you act the better.  Contact us today if you would like a quick evaluation.

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P.S. The same ZF 9 Speed transmission involved in the Granillo class action is also in 2014-2017 Range Rover Evoque, 2015-2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport, certain trims of 2015-2016 Honda Pilot and 2015-2017 Acura TLX and in Fiat 500X.

Do I need to own the car for lemon law?

The answer is no. The landmark case of Martinez v. Kia Motors America, Inc. stated that “[n]owhere does the Act provide that the consumer must own or possess the vehicle at all times in order to avail himself or herself of these remedies.” The lemon law only requires the consumer to give the manufacturer a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle.

This means that you can bring a lemon law claim after you trade in or sell the vehicle, or after the lease ends.

Remember though that the vehicle, along with the repair orders, is the most important piece of evidence in a lemon law case. Discovery and investigation into the vehicle’s use and condition after it leaves your possession is important to the facts. The amount you received for the vehicle or the costs you absorbed affect your damages.

If you choose to proceed with a claim without the vehicle, be sure you understand how the case may be affected.

If you have questions about a potential claim, contact us today for a free evaluation.

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Honda CR-V Lemon Law Issues (Engine & Transmission)

At Goldsmith West, we have noticed a trend of consumers experiencing problems in recent model year Honda CR-V models, including 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. These problems include but are not limited to problems with the engine, drivetrain and powertrain problems, loss of power, vibration, hesitation, cooling system, problems where the vehicle will not start, problems with the powertrain control module (PCM), engine knocking and stalling.  

There have also been a series of incidents of reported fuel in the oil, and odor of gas fumes inside the cabin of the vehicle. 

2018 model year in particular seems to have excess concerns about problems with gasoline in the oil tank

Attribution: ABC15 Arizona

These vehicles are also equipped with CVT transmissions, which are known to have a litany of issues, as seen in class action cases for other models. (Links) There has been at least one recall issued for this vehicle. (Link) 

There has also been a problem with the Electronic Brake Booster (EBB) system for which a technical service bulletin (TSB) was issued.

Consumers may experience the following Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs): P0300, P0301, P0302, P0304, P0172, P0297, P2187, P2583-76, and U3003-16

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Lemon Problems with Jeep & Chrysler ZF 9HP Transmission

A Federal Court is considering approval of a class action settlement involving alleged Transmission Defects in certain Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) vehicles.  Affected models include 2014 Jeep Cherokee, 2015 Jeep Cherokee, 2015 Jeep Renegade, 2015 Chrysler 200, and 2015 Ram ProMaster City.

The alleged defects include harsh or erratic shifting, clunking, hesitation, banging into gear, malfunction indicator lights, and premature wear or failure of transmission components.

Among other consideration, the settlement proposes to give cash payments or trade-in vouchers according to the following schedule:

  Number of Transmission Related Complaints  

3

4-5

6 or More

  Cash Payment  

$400

$800

$2,000 

  Trade-In Voucher Value  

$1,000

$2,000

$4,000

Depending on the circumstances, however, the same number of complaints could entitle you to all your money back under an individual lemon law claim, even if you no longer own the vehicle.  However, if you do not take specific steps to opt out of the class action, you might only receive a few hundred dollars or a voucher coupon for the same claim.  In fact, if you do not opt out, and you miss a deadline, you might get nothing.   We have seen this happen to prospective clients.  

Our firm has previous experience working on the defense side of lemon law claims, as well as working in-house for a major automaker.  We know how these cases work from every angle. Because our fees are awarded by law, you do not have to pay us for working on your case.  And if you don’t achieve a recovery, we don’t get paid.

If you feel your vehicle may be a lemon, please contact us for a fast, free and confidential evaluation.

UPDATE 11/20/18: It appears the settlement has been approved.   The opt out deadline is January 2, 2018.  For assistance opting out of the settlement, please contact us immediately. 

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Nissan CVT Transmission and Lemon Law

There have been a number of class action lawsuits in Federal Courts which allege Transmission Defects in certain Nissan vehicles equipped with Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT).  Affected models include certain recent model years of Nissan Sentra, Nissan Altima, Nissan Rogue, Nissan Versa, Nissan Pathfinder, Nissan Juke, Nissan Note, Infiniti JX35, Infiniti QX60, Our law firm has also seen this trend emerge in clients’ individual lemon law claims.

A CVT has a continuous range of gear ratios and is designed to allow the vehicle to shift gears while driving in a smooth way.  Theoretically, this design should reduce or eliminate the “shift shock” felt when a transmission shifts gears.

However, it has been alleged that Nissan’s CVTs experience sudden, unexpected shaking and violent jerking (commonly referred to as ‘juddering’ or ‘shuddering’) and that the vehicles hesitate when trying to accelerate, increasing the risk of injury or death.  Other related concerns include stalling or loss of power, illumination of the check engine light, also known as the Malfunction Indicator Lamp or MIL (association with Diagnostic Trouble Code or DTC P0776), reduced performance due to CVT fluid temperature, and need for Transmission Control Module or TCM reprogramming.  It is further alleged that the Nissan CVT transmission may also wear down or fail prematurely, often just after expiration of the warranty.

If any of the class actions proceed to judgement or settlement, history has shown that class members may might receive compensation such as reimbursed costs, a warranty extension, or a simple cash payment or coupons based on the number of transmission complaints experienced.  

Depending on the circumstances, however, the same number of complaints could entitle you to all your money back under an individual lemon law claim, even if you no longer own the vehicle.  However, if you do not take specific steps to opt out of the class action, you might only receive a few hundred dollars or a voucher coupon for the same claim.  In fact, if you do not opt out, and you miss a deadline, you might get nothing.   We have seen this happen to prospective clients.  

Our firm has previous experience working on the defense side of lemon law claims, as well as working in-house for a major automaker.  We know how these cases work from every angle. Because our fees are awarded by law, you do not have to pay us for working on your case.  And if you don’t achieve a recovery, we don’t get paid.

If you feel your vehicle may be a lemon, please contact us for a fast, free and confidential evaluation.

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Engine Defects in Kia and Hyundai Vehicles

There have been a series of class action suits regarding an engine defect in “Theta II” engines in Kia and Hyundai vehicles.  These suits allege a defect that causes “engine sludge,” or failure of the engine to lubricate itself properly – which can lead to an engine knocking condition, loss of power, stalling, premature engine wear and eventually failure, a fire in the engine, and other problems, such as interference with power steering.  

So far, the list of vehicles alleged to be affected includes the following:

2011 Kia Optima 2011 Kia Sportage 2011 Kia Sorento 2011 Hyundai Sonata 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe
2012 Kia Optima 2012 Kia Sportage 2012 Kia Sorento 2012 Hyundai Sonata 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe
2013 Kia Optima 2013 Kia Sportage 2013 Kia Sorento 2013 Hyundai Sonata 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe
2014 Kia Optima 2014 Kia Sportage 2014 Kia Sorento 2014 Hyundai Sonata 2016 Hyundai Santa Fe
2015 Kia Optima 2015 Kia Sportage 2015 Kia Sorento 2015 Hyundai Sonata
2016 Kia Optima 2016 Kia Sportage 2016 Kia Sorento 2016 Hyundai Sonata

Kia and Hyundai have taken the position that the defect only affects a very small number of vehicles and is caused by a flaw in the manufacturing process that leaves metal debris in the crankshafts.  They have admitted the problem requires engine replacement, but they have continued to blame the “metal debris in manufacturing process” even while claiming the previous problems were fixed by improving the manufacturing process.

 

Our firm has seen examples of these defects, and the effect can be nasty.  Besides the problems with the engines themselves and the questionable recalls, even when performed there is reason to be concerned about dealerships performing widespread engine replacements.  Dealerships are not set up to be factories, and the delays in getting the parts also implicates the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act’s “30-day” rule.  

Remember there are important factors to consider when deciding whether to remain in or opt out of a class action, and that pursuing your own individual lemon law remedy will nearly always be worth substantially more than what you would recover as an unnamed member of a class action.   

Contact us if you have a related problem in your vehicle, or if you would like more information.

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Class Actions and Lemon Law

How do class actions affect lemon law, and vice versa?

Lemon law clients often feel validated when they learn other people had the same problems in the same model vehicle.  This might be a symptom of the frustration of constantly being told them are imagining things by the manufacturer or dealer.  

But how do Lemon Law and class actions affect each other? The answers can be both subtle and dramatic.  

It’s important to remember that in a vacuum, other similar claims have no bearing on your Lemon Law claim.  To prove your claim, you simply need to show that you had a substantial problem that was not repaired within a reasonable number of attempts, or that defeated the essential purpose for which you bought your vehicle.  If you can do that, it doesn’t matter if your vehicle is the only one in the fleet that has the problem, or if all of them do.  

However, what we often see is manufacturers denying problems they know are common in their vehicles on a general basis.  If they know that nearly all their transmissions have a shifting defect, their defense that you must have been imagining it the 4 times you brought it into the shop becomes more suspect.  

In fact, it may rise above the level of incompetence and into willfulness–and that has a big impact on your lemon law claim.  First, it’s harder for them to deny. Second, the denying could lead to awards of civil penalties or punitive damages.

Recalls

Further, if the problem is widespread, the manufacturer should generally know about it before the consumer does, and should issue a recall. (Read more here about the effects of recalls on your lemon law claim.)  If they do not, or if the recall is ineffective, or provides too little too late, there could be cause for a class action.  

If a widespread issue of defects in material and workmanship, it could lead to a class action claim.  But what happens to your lemon law claim if it becomes part of a class action?  

From bad to worse

First, you should know that the class action can take the place of your individual lemon law claim.  If you have not opted out of the class, which usually requires that you take some sort of affirmative step like writing a letter (and keeping a copy of it–because trust us–the manufacturer is more likely to lose track of it), you may be left with whatever settlement or judgement is achieved by the class action suit.  

Second, you should know that if you have a lemon law claim, most likely whatever you would gain under the class action suit will be worth less.  Why is that?  Because with a lemon law case, the threshold remedy is repurchase of the vehicle.  Automotive consumer class actions rarely result in a repurchase. Most often they result in no more than a small amount of cash, or a coupon for a new purchase.  

Third–and it just keeps getting worse–you should know that it’s entirely possible a class action settlement will have a result that gives you nothing in place of the repurchase you might be entitled to under Lemon Law.  That’s right…it’s entirely possible you could get zero under the class action instead of all your money back under the individual lemon law claim.   

Example

For instance Fiat Chrysler recently had a class action settlement regarding modification of a component called the Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM) in Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango models.  The component would fail, causing serious problems such as stalling or failing to start, and a host of other weird issues.  These could easily be lemon law issues–but all the class settlement gave was a recall (which would have been required even without the suit) and compensation for towing, repair and rental charges–which again should be required as a minimum even without the suit.  Finally, the claims period was so short, that may Jeep owners would actually not be provided those reimbursed towing charges until their car actually chose to stall, after the class settlement period. Score one for FCA, which all of a sudden has a legal defense to total lemons.1

Many class action results (usually settlements) have rules for compensation that stretch beyond what the law would require, damages awards which are far less, and perhaps worst of all–short claims periods that may slam shut before you even know you have a claim.  Or even before you’ve experienced any problems!

Feel any differently about class actions now?  You should. And you should also know that in the case of a chronic failure of a product, a weak class action can be a huge benefit to a manufacturer.  This is because it may create a defense to a lemon law claim where one would not otherwise exist.  So beware.

In summary, class actions can both help and hurt your lemon law claim.  Their existence makes it harder to deny the class problem; but class action settlements will usually leave you in a worse spot than you would have been in with your own lemon law claim, and your own attorneys.  

1 It is arguable that lemon law prevents a settlement like this, because it is against public policy and would tend to defeat the branding requirements of the ACNA.  But don’t tell the manufacturers that–to them, the class settlement is a valid excuse to keep lemons on the road and unsuspecting consumers buying them.  

Contact us today if we can answer any other questions about your claim.  

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Lemon Law Buyback Offers: Things to Watch Out For

Issue #1 – the lemon law does not require you to sign a release or settlement agreement.

If Ford, General Motors, FCA, Kia, Hyundai, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes, Tesla or any manufacturer has offered to repurchase or replace your vehicle, there are a few lemon law related issues to keep in mind.

Lemon law requires the manufacturer to repurchase or replace a qualifying vehicle.  It does not require, or authorize the manufacturer to require, a signed settlement agreement or release.  These agreements are often packed with extraneous provisions such as confidentiality clauses and waivers of claims you do not even know you have yet.  

The manufacturer is not complying with the law if it requires you to sign one of these agreements as a condition before receiving your buyback or replacement remedy.  Yet in our experience, manufacturers often state that an agreement must be signed.

Issue #2 – the manufacturer does not get to dictate the mileage offset.

As discussed elsewhere on this site, lemon law provides that for a breach of express warranty claim, the manufacturer may reduce your reimbursement for miles driven before the problems with the vehicle started.  There is a formula in the statute for calculating this “mileage offset.” (See California Civil Code § 1793.2(d)(2)(C).)

One of the most problematic issues we see with manufacturer repurchase or replacement offers is that they make overly aggressive mileage offset calculations. They often try to dictate the offset and fail or even refuse to show how they calculated it.  Sometimes they even cheat by applying the offset to the total odometer miles instead of the miles driven before the first problem, or by applying a lease overmileage calculation instead of using the formula written in the law!

Calculating the mileage offset can be tricky, and it often requires some technical and legal  analysis. For instance, if your car leaked coolant at 10,000 miles, had the water pump replaced at 20,000 miles, overheated at 30,000 miles and required an engine replacement at 40,000 miles, which is the correct mileage offset?  We would probably argue 10,000 miles, because repeat cooling system problems starting there were the root cause of the eventual premature engine failure. We have seen many situations where manufacturer would argue that 40,000 miles should be the offset–and the difference can be thousands of dollars in reimbursement.  

Issue #3 – beware of creative deductions.

We’ve been handling lemon law buybacks for 14 years, yet no two are alike, and we continue to see new and creative methods by manufacturers of deducting from your reimbursement.   There are too many different methods to count them all. The short answer is that the method of determining how to repurchase or replace a vehicle under the lemon law is laid out at California Civil Code Section 1793.2.   The longer answer is that the more creative the deduction, the more you may need an attorney experienced with all of the lemon law case precedent and surrounding regulation to argue against it.    

Issue #4 – the manufacturer is not doing you a favor by buying back your vehicle.

This is a broader issue that actually covers the previous three.  Manufacturers, especially when dealing directly with consumers who do not have attorneys, often act as though a lemon law buyback is some kind of good will gesture. It is not a favor–it’s a legal requirement.   

That means they don’t get to tell you if your vehicle qualifies, they don’t get to dictate your compensation, and quite frankly, they don’t deserve credit or concessions for buying your vehicle back if it’s a lemon.  The law requires them to do so.  You will know excellent customer service when you see it.  If you feel you are being pushed around, just remember that the manufacturer’s customer service department probably has a lot more experience with lemon law than you do.  

The good news is, the California legislature anticipated this issue, and that’s why the lemon law requires the manufacturer to pay your legal fees.  If you want a free second opinion, or are ready to have your own advocate, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

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Lemon Law Issues with 2013 and later Ford Escape

We have seen a variety of problems with 2013 and later model year Ford Escape model vehicles which have lead to lemon law claims.  

Most of these involve problems with the engine and powertrain, including the following:

  • Stalling
  • Losing power while driving
  • Check Engine Light
  • Engine Failure
  • Engine Fire
  • Shuttering or bucking at idle
  • Vibration
  • Overheating
  • Oil and other fluid leaks
  • Replacement of the water pump
  • Loss of Power
  • Cooling System Problems
  • Transmission Problems
  • Transmission slip or jerk
  • Transmission Replacement
  • Transmission failure
  • Transmission stuck in gear
  • Transmission stuck in reverse

 

If you have had any of these problems, contact us for a fast, free and confidential consultation as to whether you may have a claim for compensation under the lemon law.