What is a “Willful Violation” in a California Product Liability Case?

People often get frustrated when the check engine light appears on their car, along with many other motor vehicle issues. However, when a person purchases a vehicle, it often comes with an express warranty that the manufacturer will fix the car if issues arise within a certain period of time. A willful violation of a car’s express warranty occurs when a manufacturer performs an inadequate solution to the issue and knows the fix is insufficient. In a recent California appellate case, the court was tasked with deciding whether a manufacturer willfully violated the terms of the express warranty when they knew about an issue with the vehicle and did not fix it. Ultimately, the court decided that the manufacturer committed a willful violation of the express warranty – and thus was liable for greater damages – by not fixing the problem with the plaintiff’s car.

The plaintiff purchased the car from the manufacturer with a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty. Within days of buying the car, the plaintiff had issues with the fuel pump, which helps regulate the power to most of the systems of the vehicle. One time the plaintiff brought the car to the shop, the manufacturer attempted to fix the faulty fuel pump, but in doing so, caused the battery to fail. There was evidence presented at trial that the manufacturer knew about the battery failure but sent the car home with the plaintiff regardless. After further issues with the car, the plaintiff then brought a lawsuit against the manufacturer, alleging a willful violation of the express warranty.

The plaintiff specifically relied on the Song-Beverly Act, arguing the defendant committed a willful violation of the express warranty. The Song-Beverly Act is a California consumer warranty statute that applies to the sale of consumer goods. The Song-Beverly Act requires manufacturers to repair a vehicle within a reasonable amount of time if the good does not conform with the express warranty made by the company. If the manufacturer is unable to repair the vehicle in order to conform with the express warranty after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer must either replace the vehicle or repay the buyer. The plaintiff can recuperate additional damages if they can establish the failure to comply was willful, meaning the repair was intentionally inadequate.

The plaintiff argued that the defendant’s “repair” was intentionally inadequate during the warranty period because the manufacturer’s solution to the faulty fuel pump created another issue with the vehicle. Additionally, the plaintiff presented evidence that the manufacturer was aware of the secondary issue they caused and chose to send the vehicle home with the plaintiff anyway. Ultimately, the court sided with the plaintiff, deciding that a repair must restore full functionality, not a “MacGyver” fix that simply swaps defects. This meant the manufacturer chose not to fully honor the express warranty and committed a willful violation.

Because a willful violation of an express warranty is extremely fact-dependent, potential plaintiffs should consult experienced products liability attorneys before bringing a claim. It is also important to realize that defective automotive parts often cause California car accidents. When this occurs, an accident victim may be able to pursue a claim against the manufacturer, as well as other parties.

Have You Suffered Injuries Because of a Defective Product in California?

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries because of a defective product, contact the California car accident and product liability lawyers at the Sharifi Firm. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling product liability claims across the state. Clients have recovered substantial compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering because of our representation. To schedule a free consultation and to talk to an attorney, call us today at 866-422-7222.

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