San Diego Lemon Law
THE CLASS ACTION POSTCARD TRAP

WHEN BAD CARS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE


By Doug Sohn



Today, I want to talk about class actions.  You've probably heard of them.  In fact, you've probably gotten more than one postcard in the mail telling you that you may be entitled to join one.  (More on those postcards in a minute.)


The idea of a class action is a good one.  It was intended to give relief to people who had been damaged by a business (usually because of a defective product or a deceptive practice), but it wasn't enough damage to justify hiring a lawyer and going to court.  A class action allows all of the people who are in that position to get together and file one lawsuit, hire one law firm, and get a settlement for everybody.


So far, so good.


The problem comes in when the class action approach is applied to motor vehicles.  Even then, it can be a good idea.  However, it isn't a good idea when you have a good lemon law claim, and somebody files a class action that covers the same vehicle and same defects.  Class actions never, in my experience, result in the vehicle owner getting as much as he or she would in a Lemon Law case.  So, you say, let's just avoid the class action, and go get a Lemon Law lawyer instead.


That's not always as easy as it sounds.  Remember that postcard I mentioned at the beginning?  Well, that's the trap.  You see, the nature of a class action is that it is meant to include everybody with the same type of claim, which could include you.  Worse, many of them are set up as "opt-out" actions.  That means you are automatically included unless you notify the court, in writing, that you don't want to be included.  That postcard you got, and ignored, could be a notice that you have until a specific date to "opt out", otherwise you are included in the class action settlement and you have lost your right to bring a Lemon Law case!  


The Ford super-duty diesel truck class action is a classic example of this situation.  The class action settlement only awarded a few hundred dollars to owners of these defective trucks. The owners of those trucks who came to me, on the other hand, got full repurchases.  I had more than one truck owner call me after the class action settlement had gone through, and I had to tell them there was nothing I could do for them; they were bound by the settlement.


So, read those postcards, and protect your rights.  If you see that there is a class action on a vehicle you own, contact a Lemon Law lawyer well in advance of any opt-out deadline.


See you next time!


 

© 2016 Douglas C. Sohn

Doug Sohn is a San Diego attorney specializing in Lemon Law cases.  He is a native of San Diego and lives in the North County with his wife, Cheri, and son, Colin, who also work with Doug in the practice.

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