Class actions generally are seen to be helpful for the community at large, however lemon law class actions may be the exception, especially for California consumers.
These class action settlements affect consumers from across the nation and each state has their own different lemon law. In California, we’re blessed with one of the most pro-consumer lemon laws in the nation. However, a lot of these class action settlements are negotiated by attorneys that are not based out of California so they’re negotiating settlements that might be great for consumers in other states because it gives them more protections however, I have yet to see a class action settlement that is better for California consumers than the rights they already have.
For example, take the recent class action that involved the continuously variable transmissions or CVTs in 2013-2017 Nissan Sentras. This class action gave consumers: (1) a warranty extension on the transmission from 5 years/60,000 miles to 7 years/84,000 miles, whichever comes first; (2) reimbursement for any out of pocket transmission repairs if they happened during the warranty extension timeframe; (3) an “expedited” resolution program through BBB if Nissan breaches the warranty extension; (4) $1,000 towards a new Nissan if you had 2 or more repairs to your transmission, but if the dealership only updated your software, that doesn’t count as a repair.
Sounds like a good deal until you realize what consumers were forced to give up to get the benefits outlined above: (1) All transmission repairs that happened before November 1, 2019 no longer count towards a lemon law case. So if you had 4 transmission repairs under warranty before November 1, 2019 but you didn’t opt out of this class action settlement, you have to start over building your lemon law case as if those 4 repairs never happened. If you’re able to build a lemon law case based off of repairs after November 2019 through the new warranty extension, you then HAVE to go through BBB Auto Line, get a decision from them, and if it’s not in your favor then and only then can you file a lawsuit against Nissan.
So really what this does for a lot of California consumers is it puts huge roadblocks in the way of getting justice. This settlement basically gives Nissan a free pass for all the transmission issues your car had before November 2019 and it makes California consumers have to jump through hoops that weren’t there before the class action settlement. Without the class action, if you had 4 transmission repair visits under warranty you could sue right away to get your car bought back. With the class action you could potentially have to get 8 total repair visits for the transmission to be able to qualify, then you would HAVE to go through BBB, and then you could file a lawsuit to get your car bought back.
How do I find out if my car is subject to a class action?
The bar is very low for these manufacturers to track down your current address to give you notice that you’re part of this class action. So assuming you get the notice, it’s usually multiple pages long (the Nissan Sentra one is 10 pages long) and it’s filled with legal terms that can be hard to understand. The notice is also only in English so if you have Spanish speaking friends or family members, please talk to them about this because they’re at the highest risk of being taken advantage of by these class actions. These class action settlements are also required to have a website dedicated to the class action settlement however the funny thing is most of these settlements forbid publicizing the class action settlement so if you don’t happen to get the notice, read the notice, understand the notice, and check out this class action website, you might never know that your rights are about to be taken away if you don’t opt out.
So what can you do?
- Google your car and add class action to the end to see if there’s anything going on. Do this at least every 6 months.
- If you get a class action notice, call a lemon law attorney immediately to talk about your options. Most, if not all, lemon law attorneys in California provide free consultations.
- If you have a Spanish speaking friend, family member, or neighbor that has a car that might be part of a class action, please help them out. These notices or websites aren’t required to be in Spanish so Latinos are at the highest risk of not knowing they’re part of a class action and then missing the opt-out deadlines.
Lemon law class action opt-out deadlines are very strict and if you don’t opt out in time, there’s really nothing you or any attorney can do about it. I can’t stress enough how important it is that you understand what these class action settlements really mean so that you can make an informed decision about whether you want to opt out or not so if you have any questions, please give California’s trusted lemon law attorney a call for a free consultation to talk about your options within the lemon law.
Check out our principal attorney’s video on this subject on YouTube: https://youtu.be/cS9BOGwyAx8