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Liles v. Damon Corp.

December 11, 2008

DALE L. LILES AND KAREN MARIE LILES, HUSBAND AND WIFE, PETITIONERS ON REVIEW,
v.
DAMON CORPORATION, AN INDIANA CORPORATION, RESPONDENT ON REVIEW.



On review from the Court of Appeals.*fn1 (CC 033086; CA A129113).

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

Argued and submitted November 6, 2007.

Before De Muniz, Chief Justice, and Gillette, Durham, Balmer, Kistler, and Walters, Justices.*fn2

The decision of the Court of Appeals is reversed. The judgment of the circuit court is affirmed.

Plaintiffs brought this action under ORS 646A.400 to ORS 646A.418, commonly known as Oregon's Lemon Law,*fn3 seeking replacement of a motor home that they had purchased. The issue on review concerns the proper interpretation of ORS 646A.402, which we quote below in full. Under that statute, a statutory remedy is "available to a consumer" if, among other things, the manufacturer of a motor vehicle has received "direct written notification" from the consumer and "has had an opportunity to correct the alleged defect." ORS 646A.402(3).

After a trial, the trial court found that plaintiffs had satisfied the statutory requirements and granted relief. Specifically, the court rejected defendant's contention that ORS 646A.402(3) obligated plaintiffs to afford defendant the opportunity to correct the alleged defect after sending written notification to defendant and before filing their action. In its judgment, the court made the following finding of fact:

"The Court finds that the manufacturer did receive adequate written notification of these defects from the Plaintiffs and that the manufacturer also had ample opportunity to correct the defects."

On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals concluded that the conditions in the statute applied in sequence: that is, the delivery of the consumer's "direct written notification" of the defect must occur before the manufacturer has any "opportunity to correct" the defect under the statute. Moreover, the court determined that each statutory condition "must be met before seeking a remedy under the Lemon Law[,]" meaning that plaintiffs had to satisfy each condition before filing their action. Liles v. Damon Corp., 210 Or App 303, 314, 150 P3d 432 (2006). According to the Court of Appeals, plaintiffs had satisfied the written notice requirement but, after doing so, had not provided defendant an opportunity to correct the alleged defect before filing their action. This court granted review to determine whether the Court of Appeals had correctly construed the requirements in Oregon's Lemon Law.

We view the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, who prevailed at trial. On December 30, 2002, plaintiffs purchased a motor home from a dealer in Sandy, Oregon. Defendant manufactured the motor home. According to the trial court's finding, plaintiffs "began contacting the factory representatives by phone in April of 2003 regarding the water leak problems they were experiencing with the unit. They contacted the factory representative about the many problems with the motor home numerous times between April 2003 and December 2003. The Plaintiffs also presented numerous times between April 2003 and December 2003. The Plaintiffs also presented numerous repair orders from the selling dealer representing many unsuccessful attempts to repair the water leaks in this unit during that same period [of] time."

The vehicle dealer performed most of the unsuccessful attempts to repair the leaks. However, the trial court found that, on one occasion, defendant directed plaintiffs to submit the vehicle for repair at a different repair shop. That attempted repair occurred on December 9, 2003, but it, too, was unsuccessful. According to the trial court, that attempted repair "was specifically authorized by the manufacturer as their attempt to cure the defect[]" and "was an opportunity to correct the defect before the lawsuit was filed even though written notice wasn't given."

On December 23, 2003, an attorney representing plaintiffs sent a letter to defendant under Oregon's Lemon Law. The letter described the water leak problems and plaintiffs' unsuccessful efforts to resolve them through multiple repair efforts and through several discussions with defendant's representatives, including its president and "the field person for Damon in charge of repairs." The letter requested the replacement remedy under the Lemon Law, ORS 646A.404(1)(a), which we quote below. The letter also stated:

"Because of the timeline of the statute in this case, I must file a Complaint under the Oregon Lemon Law within one year of the delivery date, which was December 30, 2002.*fn4 Please let me hear from you right away."

Defendant received the letter described above on December 29, 2003. Plaintiffs filed their action the next day, December 30, 2003. In January 2004, plaintiffs informed defendant that it could have access to the vehicle, but defendant took no further action to assess or repair the rainwater leaks. The case was tried to the court sitting without a jury on February 24, 2005, and the court entered judgment for plaintiffs on June 7, 2005. As noted, the Court of Appeals reversed, and we allowed plaintiffs' petition for review.

This case requires the interpretation of several statutory provisions in Oregon's Lemon Law. We begin with the text and context of the statutes and endeavor to give meaning to all parts of those statutes.

ORS 646A.402 provides:

"The remedy under the provisions of ORS 646A.400 to 646A.418 is available to a consumer if:

"(1) A new motor vehicle does not conform to applicable manufacturer's express warranties;

"(2) The consumer reports each nonconformity to the manufacturer, its agent or its authorized dealer, for the purpose of repair or correction, during the period of one year following the date of original delivery of the motor vehicle to the consumer or during the period ending on the date on which the ...


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