Lemon law court trials do not happen with every lemon law case and are actually very rare. In fact, we can tell you first-hand as California lemon law lawyers that the vast majority of claims are settled without a court jury trial or hearing.
But in the scenario your case is brought before a judge or jury, the hearing is a vital part of the lemon law process.
What is a Lemon Law Hearing?
A lemon law court trial is where you will present your side of the case – and why you deserve a refund or replacement vehicle for a manufacturer selling you a defective good. From here, the legal team of the manufacturer (the Defendant) may have some questions regarding your testimony and other documentary evidence.
Next, the manufacturer’s legal team will present its side of the case. Their goal is to show the judge and jury one, or all, of the following three things:
- The vehicle does not have a defect.
- The vehicle was not subject to enough repair attempts.
- The defect was a result of driver abuse or neglect.
From there, it’s your turn to ask questions about the Defendant’s testimony and documentation.
Once all the evidence is received from both sides, both parties will have the opportunity to summarize the evidence they have compiled and argue for a specific result. This is called the closing argument—the consumer goes first, then the defense, and finally the consumer gets an opportunity to respond and give the final word. At the end of the hearing, a ruling by the judge or jury will be rendered.
Now, in the hearing, your lemon law attorney will manage the heavy lifting of the proceedings. However, it’s your job to put them in a good position to win the highest value for your refund or replacement. In this post, I want to discuss how you can do this.
Let’s dive in.
Collect ALL Documentation
Wins and losses in lemon law cases are determined by documentation – there’s no way around it. The more comprehensive paperwork you have, the easier it will be to win your case.
The major pieces of documentation you need for your lemon law trial include:
- The sales/lease contract for the vehicle.
- The warranty booklet.
- All work orders and/or repair tickets (work orders should be closed).
- Any letters to or from the dealer/manufacturer.
- Receipts for all incidental costs related to the lemon (cab fares, hotel stays, towing fees, etc.).
- All official costs related to the lemon (taxes, registration, etc.).
- Statements for all payments made on the lemon.
Be sure to make extra copies of all your documents and organize them appropriately.
Ensure Work Orders are Correct and Organized by Date
For a vehicle to be deemed a lemon under California lemon law, there must be proof of at least two unsuccessful repair attempts by a manufacturer-certified facility. This work order – or repair invoice – will lay out all the details of:
- The problem (or nonconforming condition)
- The symptoms
- The mileage on the vehicle
- How the repair facility tried to fix the problem
- The outcome
- The costs (if applicable)
- The date
In the state of California, the Bureau of Automotive Repair regulates how this repair order is generated.
Now, assuming your work orders contain all the information above, have been closed out, and are signed by a representative of the repair facility, you need to organize them with the oldest ones first.
Create a List of Facts
The facts in a lemon law case are going to be related to the discussions you, your lemon law attorney, and the manufacturer’s legal team have had prior to the hearing. This might include details tied to:
- The nature of the defect
- The symptoms of the defect
- Repair attempts being unsuccessful
- Repair orders being closed
- The vehicle being covered under the warranty at the date of repair
- And so on.
Typically, this task falls on your legal team, but having these facts organized in a summary statement, or general timeline, prior to the hearing will save time and make things easier for you. As a rule of thumb in legal proceedings: the easier you make things for your lawyers and the courts, the quicker (and ideally more favorable) result you’ll get.
Arrange Your Witnesses
Notarized statements from witnesses are not generally allowed in court.
The use of lemon law expert witnesses is allowed under the California Evidence Code Section 720 and Federal Rule of Evidence 702. In order to qualify as an expert witness, they must demonstrate they have “special knowledge, skill, expertise, training or education sufficient to qualify him as an expert on the subject to which his testimony relates.”
If you, or your legal team, had an automotive expert analyze the manufacturer’s repair orders or procedures, they can potentially be called on as a witness.
Witnesses are not rare in lemon law hearings, and they can definitely help your cause if necessary. If you want to use a witness, be sure your legal team gives them ALL the information they need, including:
- When to appear
- Where they need to go
- What they need to bring
- How long the process will take
Make Sure You and Your Lemon Law Attorney Are on the Same Page
To reiterate, your lemon law attorney will carry the brunt of the legwork in the lemon law trial. But you need to make sure they have everything they need.
Prior to the hearing, you’ll want to set aside some time to talk things through. This is likely where the lawyer will confirm you have all documentation, everything is organized correctly, and review the game plan for the hearing or trial.
You want to be 100 percent sure there are no curve balls, misunderstandings, or missing documentation.
Over to You
Taking your lemon law case to court can be intimidating. Again, the overwhelming vast majority of claims at our office are settled out of court. In this scenario, it’s important to understand that you are facing serious legal opposition. Auto manufacturers have access to some of the best legal teams money can buy – and you need an attorney who can face the challenge.
Do you have any questions about your defective vehicle and what the next step might be?
Get in touch with our team of California lemon law lawyers.
Our team has been helping consumers earn fair compensation under the California lemon law for many years. We’re happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.
Give us a call at 888-982-6915 or reach out online.