Owners Call Foul Over Lexus Air Conditioning Smell | Nordgren Law: Automotive Litigation and Lemon Law

With cars growing in complexity, there’s a litany of different defective conditions an attorney encounters when analyzing a lemon law case. However, a recently proposed class-action lawsuit involving the Lexus ES is certainly one of the more unique that I’ve seen.

Owners of the luxury sedan argue the vehicles are defective due to highly offensive smells emanating from the air conditioning system. According to the plaintiffs, the cause is microbial growth present in the HVAC evaporator cores.

Due to the design of the system, the plaintiffs allege, refrigerant from the HVAC is allowed to accumulate over an extended period of time inside of the vehicle, allowing for dead bugs, leaves, pollen, and other debris that enter the HVAC system to decompose in the liquid. This causes an odor of fungi and bacteria to blow into the vehicle’s cabin while in use.

One of the first things an attorney will review when analyzing a lemon law case is the nature of the defect. In Louisiana, the severity of the defect dictates what relief is available to the client.

They are broken down into three categories: really bad, bad, and kind of bad.

First, there may be a defective condition in a vehicle which renders it absolutely useless (really bad). In those instances, the law provides for a buyback of the defective vehicle. A good example would be a defective transmission or electrical system.

Second, there may be defective conditions in a vehicle that, while not rendering it absolutely useless, make its use so inconvenient it can be assumed nobody would have bought the car had they known of the problem (bad). In those instances, the law also provides for a buyback of the defective vehicle.

One example of this is a lawsuit I handled involving a pickup truck which leaked water into the cabin each time it rained. Although the truck could still be used, considering the rainy weather we experience in Louisiana, it can be safely assumed no person would purchase a vehicle that fails to shield them from the elements.

Finally, there may be defective conditions in a vehicle that don’t render it useless and aren’t so severe a person wouldn’t have bought the car, but are defects nonetheless (kind of bad). One example of this would be a situation where the Check Washer Fluid light illuminates for no reason.

In those instances, a court essentially finds the consumer overpaid for the product. After all, when purchasing a new car consumers pay a premium for a product that is free from problems. If the car is a lemon, that premium price is unjustified and the consumers are entitled to get some of the purchase price returned.

The jury is still out on which category the Lexus ES odor falls into. It certainly doesn’t render the vehicle absolutely useless, but the other two categories are up for grabs.