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Manufacturer Entitled to Summary Judgment in Motorcycle Warranty Case

2008 | Topic: Product Liability

In Dominguez v. American Suzuki Motor Corporation, No. G038373 (Feb. 15, 2008), the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court’s denial of summary judgment on behalf of the vehicle manufacturer in an action brought by a consumer under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Civ. Code, § 1790 et seq.).

The consumer complained of a problem with a new motorcycle.  After several repair attempts, his counsel sent letters to the manufacturer and the dealer requesting that they repurchase or replace the motorcycle and pay his attorney’s fees and costs.  The manufacturer responded with a letter explaining that the mechanics had been unable to duplicate the reported problem and requested the consumer submit the motorcycle to an authorized dealer for repair.  A month later, the manufacturer offered to repurchase the motorcycle and pay an amount of attorney’s fees that was less than the amount the consumer had demanded.  The consumer then filed suit under Civ. Code § 1794, subd. (a).  The trial court denied the manufacturer’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that it had failed to comply with Civil Code § 1793.2(d).  The parties stipulated to entry of judgment to facilitate an appeal pursuant to Building Industry Assn. v. City of Camarillo (1986) 41 Cal.3d 810, and the trial court entered judgment.  Suzuki timely appealed.

The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the manufacturer was entitled to summary judgment because it agreed to refund the consumer’s money in response to his prelitigation demand for repurchase or replacement of the motorcycle.  Its letter requesting another opportunity to repair the motorcycle was not a refusal to comply with Civ. Code, § 1793.2, subd. (d)(1).  The remedial provisions of Civ. Code, § 1794, subd. (e), did not apply because this motorcycle was not considered a new motor vehicle as defined by Civ. Code, § 1793.2, subd. (d)(2).