Can I sue my auto dealer for selling me a brand new car that had a failed transmission only to be detected a year after purchase?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I sue my auto dealer for selling me a brand new car that had a failed transmission only to be detected a year after purchase?

I bought a new car in July 2015. All was good until last week when the engine check
light came on and the trac off light too came on. And my drive to work was very
jerky. I live in California and work and home are within 5 miles. Miles on the car is
around 7000. I’m a very diligent driver. No accident record.
The auto dealer had my car towed to the service center. The diagnostics stated that
the transmissions needed to be replaced and would take 15 days. They have
loaned me an enterprise car that stinks like hell.
Can I sue them for negligence on checks for transmissions and inconvenience?

Asked on October 4, 2016 under Accident Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You had the car for 15 months--more than a year. Transmissions can and do fail after a year of driving, especially if it is hard driving (e.g. lots of stop and go; or if you tend to accelerate fast). To have a viable  lawsuit, you would need to be able to *prove* (such as with credible mechanic's reports, made after examining the transmission):
1) That the transmission was defective when you bought it;
2) It failed due to that defect, and not due to, say, the 15-months of driving/use since then;
3) Whatever the defect was, it was of a type that a dealership would have or should have caught during the normal checks or examination of a car that a dealer typically does, since the dealership is *only* required to do the normal, reasonable, industry standard examination of a car.
And then even if you could do all that, you can't sue for "inconvenience"--the law does not provide compensation for that; rather, you could only recover your actual out-of-pocket losses (like the cost of a new transmission), which might barely (if at all) cover the cost of the lawsuit (including the cost of the expert mechanic you'd undoubtedly have to pay to examine the old transmission, right a report, and testify in court).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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