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California consumer scores major legal victory over CarMax

When buying a used car from a dealership, it makes sense that a consumer would assume they’re purchasing a safe vehicle. After all, many used auto retailers boast of employing thorough safety inspections on their inventory, ensuring that the car leaving their lot isn’t a “lemon.” Unfortunately, however, not all dealers are honest, and that can mean potentially dangerous problems for car shoppers.

CarMax, the nation’s largest used auto dealer, recently came under fire for such dishonesty. Tammy Gutierrez of Bakersfield, Calif. had previously brought suit against the retailer for selling her a 2008 Hyundai Elantra with an unrepaired safety recall. After CarMax pushed back, the suit was dismissed, though she continued her fight. Now a California state appellate court has ruled that her complaint is valid, and this landmark decision could have a significant impact on the used car industry going forward.

A misleading quality certification

When Ms. Gutierrez purchased her vehicle, she had no reason to believe it wasn’t in good condition. The CarMax location that sold the car had advertised it as passing its “rigorous 125-point inspection.” Per the dealer’s claims, this would’ve included the Hyundai Elantra’s brake lights, though the automaker had issued a recall due to said parts being defective.

In their recall, Hyundai warned that a faulty brake light switch could intermittently malfunction, putting drivers at an increased risk for a crash. Ms. Gutierrez learned of this after buying the vehicle and decided to take action against CarMax for selling her a false bill of goods. Though her initial lawsuit stalled, with the aid of attorney Robert Starr she was able to bring a strong appeal, which was ultimately ruled 2-1 in her favor by a three-judge panel.

What this could mean down the road

In her complaint, Ms. Gutierrez claimed that CarMax was in violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law, as well as its Consumer Legal Remedies Act. A lower court had ruled this claim to be invalid, but as the recent appeal overturned that ruling, she may now proceed with her lawsuit. The Court of Appeals also found that CarMax had a duty to disclose the recall, but opted instead for partial truths about the car’s condition.

The court’s decision could potentially have major consequences for consumers in the future. This ruling may allow car buyers to take action when a dealer sells them a recalled or defective vehicle, as it would fail to comply with the warranty of merchantability. We could also see a greater transparency going forward, as CarMax opening itself up to liability may affect industry practices.


Hear from Happy Clients

  • Ailin F.

    Wow, completely speechless! Best lawyers hands down.

  • Kristen P.

    What a great experience I had with Robert and his staff.

  • Abran H.

    They were able to get my money back from the dealer and I couldn't be any happier.

  • Jay B.

    After speaking to attorney Robert he assured me of the process and was able to get me very favorable results!

  • Brian H.

    BMW forced us to go to trial, which we won and were even able to recover a $30,000 civil penalty.

  • Lucero G.

    I really recommend the Law Office of Robert L. Starr. They helped me with the repurchase of my car just recently.

  • Bella M.

    I have had two separate lemon law issues that they represented me on. Both with positive outcomes.

  • Rita S.

    They were able to get my car returned as a lemon, even though it had 92,000 miles on it.

  • Kari

    The law offices of Robert Starr helped me get my car bought back from a very difficult car company.

  • Leum K.

    If you feel you have been wronged legally, Adam brings justice into your life when injustice is overflowing in this city.

  • Pam

    They handled the case well and provided me realistic expectations. I will definitely recommend them!

  • Matt

    They are communicative and efficient and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Mr. Starr and his crew.

  • Ashley

    If I ever needed their help again, I wouldn't think twice about using them or recommending them to someone who would.

  • Josh

    They don't stop fighting for you until they win for you. They give you timely updates, and if you are as needy as I am, they will go the extra mile to make sure you are at peace of mind.

  • Mark K.

    I highly recommend Robert Starr Law Office for Legal matters regarding Lemon Law buybacks.

  • Samuel M.

    Robert gave me his advice and I listened to every word...winning the case.

  • Taleen N.

    Despite all odds, Robert was able to win my case and get my money returned!

  • Taleen N.

    He is intelligent, well spoken, extremely knowledgeable and puts EVERYTHING he has into getting you the most fair settlement possible!

  • Former Client

    He took my difficult, albeit honest, case and after many months of battle was able to get me a fair and amazing outcome.

  • Alex B.

    Tever & Natalia from Robert Starr kept me up to do date on all their dealings with Ford, and just a couple of months later I had a 5-figure check and a drop-off date for my vehicle.

  • Djangus R.

    The entire staff was responsive and knowledgeable.

  • Former Client

    The process was pretty effortless and they took care of basically everything.

  • Former Client

    Robert Star is extremely professional kind and patient and understanding with all his customers.

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