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California Court Reverses Decision in Ford Limousine Warranty Case
RIVERSIDE, CA - On Friday, October 27th, 2006, in a case of first impression, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Court, held that out-of-state business cannot recover under California's lemon law for vehicles purchased in California but registered elsewhere. In so ruling, the Court reversed a $489,380.13 lemon law verdict for plaintiff Park City Services, Inc., a Dallas limousine service. Park City Services, Inc. vs. Ford Motor Company, Inc., 2006 WL 3041964 (Cal.App. 4 Dist. 2006).
On October 28, 1997 Timothy Ferraro ordered the 1998 Lincoln Town Car limousine from R-D Group, Inc. dba Tiffany Coachworks for his business, Ferraro Limousine Services. The vehicle came with a limited warranty from Ford which did not cover modifications by Tiffany Coachworks. During the warranty period, the limousine required numerous repairs. All the repairs occurred in Dallas. Some repairs were covered by Tiffany Coachworks' warranty; others were covered by Ford's warranty.
On March 12, 2001, plaintiff filed its lawsuit in Riverside County Superior Court.
When the case proceeded to a jury trial on August 14, 2004, plaintiff proceeded solely against Ford. At the outset of the case, Ford sought a ruling from the trial court that California's lemon law did not apply to plaintiff's limousine because plaintiff was an out-of-state business. The trial court rejected Ford's argument and the jury awarded Park City $489,380.13 in damages, representing $163,126.71 in compensatory damages and $326,253.42 in civil penalty.
On appeal, Ford argued, and the Court of Appeal agreed, that the Song-Beverly Act has never applied to any vehicle used for business purposes where the subject vehicle has never been registered in California. Plaintiff's limousine had been shipped to, registered and used in Texas, not California. The Court of Appeal further held that Ford did not waive its defense that plaintiff's vehicle was ineligible for California lemon law protection by waiting until trial to have the trial court rule on the issue.
The judgment was reversed and Ford was awarded costs on appeal against Ferraro.
Park City Services, Inc. vs. Ford Motor Company, Inc.
Case No.: RIC355941
Judge Dallas Holmes
Fourth Appellate District Court
Attorneys for Defense:
Brian Takahashi and Robert S. Robinson, Bowman and Brooke - Los Angeles, CA
Attorneys for Plaintiff:
Robert F. Brennan and Robert A. Wiener, Brennan, Wiener & Associates - La Cresenta, CA
Experts appearing at trial for Defense:
Alan Fass, Field Service Engineer, Ford Motor Company, Dallas, TX; Nicholas Walters, Field Service Engineer, Ford Motor Company, Mission Viejo, CA
Experts appearing at trial for Plaintiff:
Timothy Sauerwein, Automotive Mechanic, Apperson Automotive, Tujunga, CA