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The California Supreme Court seemed unwilling on Wednesday to extend the state’s generous lemon law protections to faulty vehicles bought in other states. “Under your interpretation, a resident of Nevada who buys in Nevada could have the benefits of the lemon law of California,” Justice Marvin Baxter told Bellflower, Calif., attorney Michael Humphries during oral arguments. “What would ever motivate a California legislator to impose that type of burden on California businesses to benefit an out-of-state resident who purchases out of state?” Chief Justice Ronald George and Justice Joyce Kennard added to Humphries’ grief by saying that the lemon law makes it abundantly clear that its protections apply only to vehicles “sold in this state.” “If we agree with you,” Kennard stated, “this becomes surplusage.” The case began when Edward and Sandi Cox bought a Winnebago motor home equipped with a Cummins Inc. engine in Idaho, then drove it home to Riverside, Calif. After experiencing irreparable problems with the vehicle, they sued both companies for allegedly violating a provision of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act that requires proper maintenance or replacement of a malfunctioning vehicle. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Dallas Holmes denied Winnebago and Cummins’ summary judgment motion, but Riverside’s 4th District Court of Appeal reversed in 2003, saying that the act can apply to goods sold outside California as long as successful repair attempts by the manufacturer are made inside the state. The Supreme Court justices seemed ready to remand Wednesday, with a couple of them pointing out that even the legislative analyst and the author of the legislation, former state Sen. Alfred Song, had written letters saying the lemon law wouldn’t have any impact on vehicles bought out of state. They also noted prior rulings holding a presumption against legislation that would have extra-territorial effects. Cummins was represented by Tami Smason, of Los Angeles’ Foley & Lardner, while Winnebago was defended by Thomas Murphy, a partner in Mission Viejo, Calif.’s Sutton & Murphy. A ruling in Cummins v. Superior Court (Cox), S117726, is expected within 90 days.

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