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Lemon Law, Encino, Mercedes-Benz SL65

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Case Description

After eight unsuccessful attempts to have his 2006 Mercedes-Benz SL65 repaired at three different local dealerships, the car owner called the Mercedes-Benz Customer Assistance phone number to request that the manufacturer repurchase or replace his defective Mercedes-Benz SL65. The vehicle was experiencing problems with its Brakes, Active Body Control (ABC) System, Transmission, Electrical System, Check Engine Lights and various other defects and nonconformities. The owner's Mercedes SL65 had been in for repair 8 times for a total of 28 days.

One month later, the owner called to check on the status of his request and to inform MBUSA that his SL65 had been in for 3 more repair attempts totaling 5 additional days. The Mercedes vehicle owner was informed that MBUSA was still looking into his repair history.

Over the next few weeks the Mercedes SL65 went in for repairs 2 more times totaling an additional 11 days. Almost 2 months after first contacting the Mercedes-Benz Customer Assistance department, and with a vehicle that had been in for 13 separate repair attempts totaling 44 days, the owner of the defective Mercedes received a letter from Mercedes-Benz USA informing the consumer that his vehicle did not meet the standards of California Lemon Law, but that MBUSA would offer him the reimbursement of two of his payments as an act of "Goodwill".

Within the next 30 days, the Mercedes SL65 went back in to the service department 4 more times for an additional 9 more days. The vehicle owner wrote the Head of Service for Mercedes-Benz and the Head of Mercedes-Benz Western Region informing them that he had a vehicle that qualified to be replaced or repurchased under the California Lemon Law and that Mercedes was not adhering to the applicable California lemon law statutes. The SL65 owner suggested that he would get a lawyer if Mercedes did not meet its legal obligations.

2 days later, the owner of the defective Mercedes-Benz SL65 discovered that the passenger side of his vehicle has collapsed due to another problem with the vehicle's ABC system. The owner calls the department head of Mercedes Customer Assistance Center to inform him of the situation and express that the vehicle must be repurchased pursuant to California's Lemon Law.

Disregarding the owner's safety, the Mercedes Customer Assistance Center Department Head attempted to diagnose the vehicle over the phone and have the owner drive the defective vehicle to the second closest dealership to the owner to be examined. The owner refused and when the tow truck driver arrived, the owner was warned that driving the vehicle with the collapsed system like it was could have likely put the driver in a life-threatening situation.

The owner again sent requests to the same department heads of Mercedes apprising them of the newest developments and requesting his vehicle being repurchased. The owner received a reply email that the Department Head of Mercedes Customer Assistance Center was “empowered” to make decisions on behalf of MBUSA and that a specialist will look at the owner's vehicle.

At the dealership, the service writer looked over the vehicle's service history and volunteered information that the vehicle should have been repurchased for at least 2 separate issues. The owner relayed the service writer's comment on to the heads of Mercedes-Benz and 2 days later an offer from the Customer Assistance Center on behalf of the manufacturer agreed to repurchase the owner’s vehicle. The letter stated that a third party group would calculate a reimbursement amount based on state lemon laws.

The Impartial Group's Buyback Calculations

A few weeks after Mercedes had agreed to buyback the vehicle, a representative from the impartial group called to introduce himself and inform the owner how long the repurchase would take and what procedures were going to be involved. The impartial representative asked the owner if he had an idea of what the dollar amount or calculation of the repurchase would be. The owner, instead of answering, asked the representative what calculation he had come up with and was informed that it should be around $70,600. The owner informed the representative that by law the repurchase amount should be around $75,000 to which the impartial representative said OK, and that he would get in touch with MBUSA.

About 2 weeks later the representative called the owner and left message informing that he (the impartial representative) had made a mistake in his calculations and that he would send the owner a fax with MBUSA’s adjusted offer. The adjusted "repurchase offer" that followed was for $21,172.26

The owner called the impartial representative confused as to why the offer was so much lower than both his and the representative’s initial calculations and expressed his dissatisfaction. The impartial representative suggested that the Lemon law may not apply and that perhaps MBUSA was simply making the offer as a “good will” gesture. The impartial representative informed the plaintiff that he would talk with MBUSA and get back to the owner as soon as he got a response.

A couple of weeks later after leaving the impartial representative several messages asking for an update, the representative informed the owner that the offer had not changed and was firm. The owner was informed that it was a “proactive repurchase and has nothing to do with the Lemon Law”. When asked by the owner if the impartial representative was truly impartial, the representative acknowledged that while the group used the word impartial in their name, the group was not actually impartial as they worked directly for the manufacturer. The owner was told that a process had to be in place, and that MBUSA hired the Impartial Group to facilitate that process. The owner expressed his disappointment and dissatisfaction.

A few weeks later, the owner again called the representative who stated that MBUSA had advised him that the vehicle did not qualify as a Lemon under the applicable statutes (despite MBUSA’s previous admission in writing that in fact it did qualify), but that the representative "will calculate reimbursement amount based on applicable state lemon laws and contact you to review and obtain verbal acceptance of the calculation”. The owner received a “revised repurchase offer” for $32,858.75 made by MBUSA.

Recognizing that the representative was not impartial and that the manufacturer was not going to follow the buyback calculation as outlined by the California lemon law because they claimed they were only repurchasing the vehicle as a “good will” gesture, the owner retained the Law Offices of Robert B. Mobasseri.

Shortly thereafter, without any admission of liability or conceding the merit of any of the owner's claims, the manufacturer repurchased the owner’s vehicle, followed the calculation for reimbursement outlined by the California lemon law and paid additional monies to the buyer.

The buyer agreed to the settlement and chose not to pursue the manufacturer or the "Impartial Group" for fraud in court.