Lemon law doesn’t always help

Published 11:24 pm Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dear Lawyer Mark. I bought a used car in February. Two days later, the car blew up and I can no longer drive it. The person I bought it from said that they couldn’t help me because it’s mine now. I am deeply hurt by this. The man told me that everything was fine with the car when I bought it. I want to know what my legal rights are. Does the lemon law apply to used cars? Is this person responsible to give my money back and take the car back? As I said, I am deeply hurt by this because I’m broke. I’m even more upset because it was a friend of mine who sold the car to me. Please help me. — VERY HURT

Dear Hurt: Unfortunately for you, the “Lemon Law” as it is commonly referred to only applies to new cars. Since you bought your car used, you can only recover from the seller if he gave you an express warranty or he tried to cover up any problems or fraudulently misrepresented the condition of the car to you.

The Lemon Law is one of the areas in which I receive a large volume of letters and there seems to be some confusion as to what it covers and what it doesn’t cover. First, as stated above, the Lemon Law covers only “nonconforming new vehicles,” that is to say, only those vehicles that have a problem that does not conform to an express warranty made by the manufacturer or dealer. The consumer must report the nonconformity to the manufacturer within one year of the date of delivery of the vehicle or within 18,000 miles, whichever is earlier.

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If the consumer does report the nonconformity within the time frame, then the manufacturer or dealer must make the necessary repairs to the vehicle in order for it to conform to the warranty, even if the repairs occur after the expiration of the reporting periods listed above. If the vehicle is still not in conformity after a reasonable number of attempts to fix it by the demand a refund of the purchase price and all associated fees, such as licensing and tax.

The law says that “reasonable number of attempts” means that the dealer has tried to fix the same problem three or more times and there is still a problem, the vehicle has been out of service for repair purposed more than 30 calendar days, there have been a total of eight or more attempts to fix any problem that substantially impairs the use and value of the vehicle or there has been at least one attempt to fix a problem that would result in death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle was operated and that problem still exists.

If after these problems, the dealer still refuses to replace the vehicle or refund the monies you must then go into arbitration with the dealer and manufacturer to try and resolve the problems with the vehicle. If no agreement is reached in arbitration, only then can you initiate a lawsuit against the dealer and manufacturer to try and resolve the problems with the vehicle.

If no agreement is reached in arbitration, only then can you initiate a lawsuit against the dealer and manufacturer.

As you can see, there are quite a few hoops that a person has to jump through in order to file a suit under the Lemon Law, and I recommend that anyone who thinks they have a lemon seek legal advice on the facts of their case. The law is not there for consumers to get out of purchasing a car if they change their minds; rather the law is there to protect those consumers who truly end up with a lemon and cannot get the manufacturers or dealers to fix the problems.

Thought for the week:

“ A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)