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Mexia v. Rinker Boat Co.

June 15, 2009

JESS MEXIA, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
RINKER BOAT COMPANY, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



APPEAL from the Superior Court of San Bernardino County. Ben T. Kayashima, Judge. (Retired judge of the San Bernardino Super. Ct. assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to art. VI, § 6 of the Cal. Const.) Reversed. (Super. Ct. No. RCV099546).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: King, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff Jess Mexia sued Rinker Boat Company, Inc. (Rinker) and Miller's Landing (Miller) for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (Civ. Code, § 1790 et seq.) (the Song-Beverly Act). In essence, Mexia alleged that he purchased from Miller a boat manufactured by Rinker that was unmerchantable due to a latent defect, which subsequently caused the boat's engine to corrode. He commenced his action within four years after purchasing the boat.

In support of their demurrer to the complaint, Rinker and Miller asserted that Civil Code section 1791.1, subdivision (c)-a provision of the Song-Beverly Act that defines the duration of the implied warranty of merchantability-is a one-year statute of limitations that bars Mexia's claim.*fn1 The court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend. After judgment was entered in favor of Rinker and Miller, Mexia appealed.

On appeal, Rinker and Miller concede that the duration provision is not a statute of limitations and that the applicable statute of limitations is four years. They argue, however, that the judgment can be affirmed on other grounds. Among other arguments, they contend that the duration provision of the Song-Beverly Act should be interpreted as barring an action for breach of the implied warranty of merchantability when the purchaser fails to discover and report the defect to the seller within the time period specified in that provision. We reject this argument because the plain language of the statute, particularly in light of the consumer protection policies supporting the Song- Beverly Act, make clear that the statute merely creates a limited, prospective duration for the implied warranty of merchantability; it does not create a deadline for discovering latent defects or for giving notice to the seller. Because we also reject Rinker and Miller's other arguments, we reverse the judgment.

I. SUMMARY OF FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY*fn2

Mexia bought a boat from Miller on April 12, 2003. The boat was manufactured by Rinker. Rinker gave an express "Limited Warranty" to Mexia, a copy of which is attached to the complaint. Rinker's limited warranty provides that the boat "will be free from substantial defects in materials and workmanship for a period of one (1) year from the date of purchase . . . [and] the boat hull will be free of structural defects in material and workmanship for a period of five (5) years from date of purchase . . . ." The express warranty does not apply to certain equipment and accessories, including the boat engine. Rinker's limited warranty expressly limits "the duration of any implied warranties of merchantability and all implied warranties of fitness for a particular purpose to the term of this limited warranty" and "disclaims any implied warranties of merchantability and implied warranties of fitness for a particular purpose after expiration of this limited warranty." (Capitalization omitted.) Finally, the limited warranty states that "[n]o action to enforce this Limited Warranty shall be commenced later than six (6) months after expiration of this Limited Warranty."

By July 2005, repairs to the boat were needed "because of defects, non-conformities, misadjustments or malfunctions relating to corrosion in the engine." (Mexia did not allege the date he first observed the defects, etc.) On July 8, 2005, Mexia returned the boat to a boat dealer authorized to make repairs under the written warranties. Subsequently, the boat "exhibited further and additional defects, non-conformities, misadjustments or malfunctions in the same components or systems." Each time, Mexia notified Rinker and Mercury Marine of the problems within a reasonable time after discovering the problem, demanding that the boat be repaired under the warranties. Defendants failed to make the boat "conform to the applicable warranties . . . ." On October 3, 2006, Mexia discovered that defendants "were unable or unwilling to make the [boat] conform to the applicable warranties."

Mexia alleges that at the time he acquired the boat, each defendant "impliedly warranted that the [boat] was merchantable as provided in [the Song-Beverly Act]." The boat, however, "was not merchantable as evidenced by the defects, non-conformities, misadjustments, and malfunctions" alleged in the complaint.

The complaint was filed on November 27, 2006-three years seven months after Mexia purchased the boat.

Rinker and Miller demurred to the single cause of action asserted against them- breach of the implied warranty of merchantability under the Song-Beverly Act. As stated above, the court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend.*fn3 Judgment was thereafter entered in favor of Rinker and Miller.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standard of ...


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