CASE RESULTS DEPEND UPON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE. CASE RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE.
In a California lemon law trial involving allegations that a 2015 Hyundai Genesis wasn't properly diagnosed and repaired under warranty, Hyundai Motor America received a defense verdict from a downtown Los Angeles jury on Wednesday, June 22, 2016. The case is titled Steven Keefer and Patricia Ann Nelson Keefer v. Hyundai Motor America, Los Angeles County Superior Court Case No. BC580805. The defense verdict came after 7 days of jury trial and 2 hours of deliberations. The jury voted 10-2 that there was no substantially impairing defect and 12-0 that there was no breach of implied warranty.
The case involved Mr. Keefer's factual contention that his car would intermittently hesitate and not react to his pushing on the gas pedal at takeoff. After a delay sometimes supposedly lasting 3 to 5 seconds, the car would then suddenly take off like a “rocket.” Mr. Keefer made 7 visits to 3 different Hyundai dealerships complaining about the hesitation over the first 8 months he owned the car with none of those complaints verified by the dealerships. He alleged that the instances of delay at takeoff became more frequent over time and that the efforts to diagnose his concern were inadequate. Eventually, he gave up driving his car and chose to lease a 2015 Yukon instead. When he called and asked for his money back, Hyundai reviewed his repair history in good faith and denied his claim. It offered to have a field service engineer to inspect and repair the vehicle, if the issue was verified. If dissatisfied with the denial or the offer of further investigation, Hyundai apprised Mr. Keefer that he could pursue buyback utilizing the BBB Auto Line, an arbitration program certified by California's Department of Consumer Affairs which was free, quick and binding on Hyundai only.
Rather than work with Hyundai or pursue arbitration, plaintiffs filed their lawsuit. In addition to seeking restitution, they sought a civil penalty up to two times of actual damages . They claimed that Hyundai willfully violated California's lemon law, known as the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, because it did not offer them a repurchase when Mr. Keefer called Hyundai's 1-800 number and asked for a buyback. In addition, plaintiffs sought recovery under the federal Magnuson Moss Warranty Act.
In defense, Hyundai demonstrated through its testing and review of the repair history of the subject vehicle that it contained no defect. This was corroborated by the fact that none of the Hyundai dealership technicians who drove it during the 7 visits could duplicate the concern. Nor had plaintiffs' own expert, Darrell Blasjo, ever duplicated the concern. Importantly, during trial, Mr. Keefer admitted that he sometimes drove with his left foot on the brake pedal. This constituted 2 footed driving which Mr. Blasjo admitted could be the root cause of his complaints. Finally, Hyundai brought up the fact that plaintiffs never arbitrated with BBB Auto Line. As participation in such an independent dispute resolution mechanism is a prerequisite to filing a Magnuson Moss lawsuit, this federal claim was dismissed by plaintiffs during trial.
Hyundai will now seek its recoverable costs from plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs were represented at trial by Bryan C. Altman of the Altman Law Group and Russell Higgins of O'Connor & Mikhov LLP.
Hyundai was represented by Brian Takahashi and Jimmy Park of Bowman and Brooke LLP in its Los Angeles office and Zhanna Bulkina of Hyundai Motor America.