Niedermeier v. FCA US LLCAnnotate this Case
After plaintiff filed suit under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, commonly known as the "lemon law," the jury awarded her the full purchase price of her defective vehicle, offset by mileage accrued before she first delivered it for repair, plus incidental and consequential damages and a civil penalty. The trial court subsequently denied defendant's motion to reduce plaintiff's damages by the credit she received towards the purchase price of a new vehicle when she traded in her defective vehicle to a GMC dealer.
As a matter of first impression, the Court of Appeal held that the Act's restitution remedy, set at "an amount equal to the actual price paid or payable" for the vehicle, does not include amounts a plaintiff has already recovered by trading in the vehicle at issue. The court stated that the Legislature chose to call the Act's refund remedy "restitution," indicating an intent to restore a plaintiff to the financial position in which she would have been had she not purchased the vehicle. Therefore, granting plaintiff a full refund from defendant in addition to the proceeds of the trade-in would put her in a better position than had she never purchased the vehicle, a result inconsistent with "restitution." The court also held that allowing plaintiff a full refund also would undercut other parts of the Act. Therefore, the court reduced the damage award to reflect the value of plaintiff's trade-in and reduced the civil penalty. The court affirmed the judgment as modified.