With new cars—even used cars—still in high demand and short supply these days, the anticipation of receiving a new car is at an all-time high for many consumers. But what happens if your automobile is damaged during delivery? And what if you purchased it in a different state and took delivery of the automobile in California? Are you covered under the California Lemon Law?

What the California Lemon Law says

In the State of California, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act of 1970 and the Tanner Consumer Protection Act are collectively known as the California Lemon Law and are written to protect consumers’ rights. The laws apply to consumer products, including automobiles and motorcycles.

For example, if you buy or lease a vehicle that is still under warranty and a recurring problem can’t be fixed after several “reasonable” attempts, you have the legal right to demand the manufacturer to buy the vehicle back from you or to replace it at their expense.

When your new vehicle is damaged during delivery, are you protected by lemon laws?

In the unfortunate event that your car is damaged during delivery, that is a big question! First, it is important to understand that the California Lemon Law applies only to vehicles that have been “sold or leased” in California. However, if you bought a vehicle in a different state, and you took delivery of the vehicle here in California, you may still have legal protection under the lemon law.

Where a vehicle was leased or purchased is usually easy to determine. If you purchase a vehicle from a dealership and drive it home, it is quite clear where the transaction was made. But if you order a vehicle from an out-of-state dealer and have it delivered to you in California, the matter can get legally complicated.

California’s appellate courts have held that an automobile is considered “sold in California” if the vehicle’s title passes from the seller to the buyer in California. Under the state’s Commercial Code, the title passes only at the physical location where the seller delivers the vehicle to the buyer.

Example A:

If a contract specifies a delivery location such as a car dealer in California, that location is where the sale takes place.

Example B:

If a sales contract requires the delivery of the vehicle to the buyer, but does not specify a location for the delivery, then the sale is considered to take place at the location where the seller ships the vehicle. For the purposes of our discussion here, that would be an out-of-state car dealer or manufacturer.

When delivery goes wrong, what are the next steps?

If you ordered your vehicle from an auto dealership located in another state, have it delivered to you in California and the vehicle is damaged during delivery, whether you may be eligible to file a lemon law claim will depend on a variety of things and it gets complicated.

One of the most important things you will need is all the paperwork related to your purchase of the vehicle. This includes the purchase/lease agreement and the agreement to deliver the vehicle to you in California. You will also need the repair records.  Once you have those in hand, send them in to a consumer protection attorney to assess whether you have a valid claim.

Think you have a claim? Get a free, no-obligation case evaluation from Sotera L. Anderson, California Lemon Law Attorney, here or call  1-855-96-LEMON, or (858) 247-0050.