Most of us have heard of California’s “Lemon Law,” which is actually the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. California’s Lemon Law requires a car dealer to replace the car or refund the consumer’s money if repairs to a specific problem are not successful after a reasonable number of attempts. There is a presumption that if the manufacturer/dealer cannot fix the problem in four or more attempts within 18 months or 18,000 miles, the Lemon Law requires a new car or money back.
But there is another California law dealing with automobile repairs known as the Automotive Repair Act.
AUTOMOTIVE REPAIR ACT
The Automotive Repair Act, section 9884.9 of the Business and Professions Code, empowers the Bureau of Automotive Repair to regulate “automotive repair dealers,” which includes anyone who works on repairing or diagnosing motor vehicles, not a car dealer in the true sense.
The Automotive Repair Act requires repair shops to give customers a written estimated price for labor and parts, and no work is to be done until authorization to proceed is obtained from the car owner.
Under the Act, the Bureau of Automotive Repair may pursue criminal, civil and administrative penalties for violations of the Act. Notably the Act does not authorize wronged car owners to sue.
AUTO REPAIR DISAGREEMENT
Christopher Vasquez took his damaged car in for repairs to Solo, a car repair shop. A beef ensued and ultimately Solo sold Vasquez’s car at a lien sale. Solo claimed it was not paid for services provided and Vasquez claimed he did not authorize the repairs and Solo refused to return his car.
Vasquez sued Solo for damages, including a rental car, and even a claim for money lost because he lost his job due to tardiness from not having a vehicle. That’s a stretch.
AND THE QUESTION IS?
The trial court ruled against Solo in favor of Vasquez for $12,000. Solo appealed arguing that the Automotive Repair Act does not allow a wronged car owner to sue under the Act. The Act was enacted to regulate automobile repair businesses, not authorize consumer lawsuits.
The legal question was whether the Automotive Repair Act gives rise to a private cause of action (lawsuit) against a repair company.
The Second District Court of Appeal analyzed the Act noting there was no language in the law authorizing an aggrieved car owner to sue the repair shop. Many other laws regulating businesses expressly allow consumers to sue, not the Automotive Repair Act.
The Court of Appeal concluded that while there are ways for consumers to sue automotive repair dealers, the Automotive Repair Act provides no such private right to sue.
DEDICATION TO PRESIDENT GEORGE H.W. BUSH
This column is dedicated to George H.W. Bush, a true patriot and statesman. We need more of his kind.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.portersimon.com.
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