If you live in California, are in the military serving our country and think that you may have a lemon vehicle, there is a California lemon law bill which took effect January 1, 2008 that you should know about. California has been a leader in protecting consumers who bought lemon vehicles, but before 2008 the law stated that if you were to pursue a lemon law case, one of the stipulations was that the vehicle must have been bought in California. The new bill (SB234), sponsored by state Senator Ellen Corbett, extends the protection to all active duty military personnel stationed in California as long as the vehicle was purchased in the United States.

The law was inspired by the lemon problems of Lt. Nathan Kindig, serving in the United States Navy as a physician assistant. He was looking for a safe and reliable vehicle for his family to drive while he was stationed overseas in Iraq. Shortly after buying a 2004 Dodge Dakota, the vehicle started having problems with the engine overheating. After many repair attempts, the dealership labeled the vehicle as unrepairable, clearly making it a lemon. Because the vehicle was not purchased in California, Kindig could not pursue a buyback under the California lemon law. After hiring a lawyer and continuing to pay for a vehicle that could not be driven, the dealership agreed to repurchase the lemon on terms that would cost Kindig thousands of dollars, as Chrysler refused to use the traditional lemon law offset formula and demanded a specific offset amount.

California was the first state in the nation to specifically protect active duty military troops whose vehicles are “lemons”, regardless where their vehicles are purchased or registered. The bill attracted widespread bi-partisan support, and was passed unanimously in both houses of the California Assembly before the Governor signed it into law. Today, many states have adapted their lemon law statutes to include protection to help military members who have purchased defective vehicles which turn out to be lemons.

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