April 30, 2013

Varying state lemon laws

Every state has different laws as it relates to lemon laws and defective new vehicles. Some states' lemon law are more favorable to consumer than others. Unfortunately, in Texas, the lemon law has been heavily lobbied by care manufacturers and dealerships; and therefore, is not very favorable to consumers.

A sign that a state lemon law is helpful to consumers is if it contains an attorney fee shifting provision. An attorney fee shifting provision requires a manufacturer to pay for the consumer's attorney fees, in the event the consumer wins the case. Often times, after buying a vehicle (the second largest purchase behind a house), most consumers do not have excessive funds to hire an attorney to seek recourse against car manufacturers.

The Texas lemon law has a "pseudo" attorney fee shifting provision. The provision is triggered during the arbitration and only if the car manufacturers hire an attorney. Unfortunately, car manufacturers abuse this provision and never obtains an attorney, instead, they bring car experts who have received legal training to the arbitration instead. Hence, the "pseudo" attorney fee shifting provision is rendered useless and if often never triggered.

July 3, 2012

Three things to expect from a lemon law attorney/lawyer

Expectations are important. It is vital to any good relationship; especially between an attorney and a client in a lemon law case. Below are three things I tell clients to expect from me.

1) Expect attorney-client privilege. Under the attorney code of ethics, as an attorney, I have an obligation to keep your information from being shared to others without your authorization. Information will be kept confidential.

2) Expect to be kept up to date on the status of your case. Although our office cannot guarantee outcomes in a lemon law case, we will do our best to contact our client (usually by email, phone, or mail) and keep them posted on the status of their case. Communication is key and we will do our best to answer any questions our client has. We have almost posted a frequently asked and answered page on our website as well.

3) Expect advocacy. We will represent your best interest against the car dealership and/or vehicle manufacturer at all times. Sometimes, this means being honest with our professional opinion, which the client may or may not like.

May 8, 2012

Four tips on how to avoid the purchase of a new lemon vehicle.

Buying a new vehicle is statistically the second largest purchase that most consumers partake in their lifetime, behind purchasing a new home. Often times, the negotiation process itself is stressful enough. To avoid owning a lemon vehicle that will inconvenience and acquiring a headache down the road, it is important to be mindful of the following red flags... In the vehicle manufacturing business, there will be a small percentage of defects. Your goal is to avoid owning a lemon car in that small percentage; because taking a new Ford vehicle in the service center for warranty work is not the ideal situation to be in.

1) If the vehicle already has high mileages on it. A new car should not have over 300 miles on it. High mileage vehicles mean that other potential buyers test drove the vehicle and passed up on it, for a reason.

2) If the vehicle has visual defects or dings. Decline the vehicle and pick another vehicle from the lot, or go to a different dealership -- even if the salesperson (who wants you to buy the vehicle to earn a commission so he/she can quickly work on another deal with another consumer) promises you that the dealership will repair it before they hand it to you.

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3) Check the floorboard, cushions, under the hood for potential water damage or flooded vehicles. If your car has been submerged under water because it was sitting in a Hurricane disaster area (ie: hurricane Katrina in 2005) and is later transported to a different state to be sold to you, then you need to run away fast. Pull the seat belts out all the way and check for water damage on the cloth of the seat belt.

4) If the VIN numbers on components or parts of the vehicle does not match, then that is a sign that your vehicle has been subject to repair for various problems or defects from the time of manufacturing, to the time it reaches the car lot.

December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays!

May all your vehicle shopping be lemon free.

April 24, 2011

Incidental Fees under the Texas Lemon Law

Most consumers are unaware about incidental expenses under the Texas Lemon Law. Under Rule Section 215.209 of the Texas Administrative Code, if a consumer is successful in obtaining a refund or replacement of the vehicle under the Texas Lemon Law, then the consumer is also entitled to incidental costs.

Please keep in mind that Texas Lemon Law incidental fees must be affirmatively proven, meaning that you must submit receipts, paperwork, and documentation at the hearing. Merely stating these costs at the hearing will most likely not work. Incidental fees include:

- the cost of obtaining another form of transportation,
- the cost of towing the vehicle (if it has not been paid by the manufacturer or dealer),
- the cost of telephone calls or mail postage fees,

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- the cost of meals and lodging if the vehicle failed while the consumer is out of town,
- the cost of loss or damage to personal property (for example, if the lemon defect was a leak and the rain caused damage to your electronic devices left in the vehicle),
- attorney fees (but only after the vehicle manufacturer informs the consumer that they are represented by an attorney). FYI, the vehicle manufacturer will likely never have an attorney attend this hearing, they will have experienced technicians who receive legal training to circumvent this loophole in the law),
- accessories added to the vehicle at or after purchase (minus a "use" allowance).

October 27, 2010

What to expect when you contact a Texas Lemon Law attorney

Often times, when a client contacts me regarding a defective lemon vehicle purchased in Texas, it is their first time contacting an attorney. Here are some things you should expect when you contact a lemon law attorney...

First, you should expect the attorney to ask you basic questions about yourself, such as your name, address, email, and contact information..

Second, you should expect the attorney to ask you questions relating to your vehicle, such as the year, make, model, current mileage, and history of repairs.

Third, you should expect the attorney to ask you to fax or mail the repair invoices or repair orders for the vehicle. Hence, make sure you have prepared and organized your documentation.

Thereafter, once the attorney has reviewed your file, then he or she will discuss your options with you.

February 21, 2010

National Car History Report to Combat Texas and California Lemon Vehicles

In 1992, Congress passed a law that requires the implementation of a national database that contains a car history report of every vehicle found in the United States. The database is called the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS).

Eighteen (18) years later in 2008, it looks like the Justice Department finally decided that it will abide by Congress' order (in this case, it took lawsuits from consumer groups to get the Justice Department to finally do its job).

I just received an email update from a California Lemon Law attorney, Craig Patrick, about California being one of the frontier states that is currently participating in this national database program. The NMVTIS will contain information about the whether the vehicle was a lemon law buyback or whether it has been severely wrecked.

Rather than spending more than necessary at private companies such as carfax.com or autocheck.com for this report, car buyers from California can now go to their DMV and order a car history report for less than $5 per search. Albeit, the information found from the California DMV, will not include secondary information, such as intel from car shops, police reports, and etc.

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At its current state it looks like Texas is lagging behind in its participation with this national lemon car database. Currently, Texas is only providing data to the NMVTIS, but Texas does not make inquiries into the car's history before issuing titles.

For more information, click this link... Download file

December 25, 2009

Happy holidays or Merry Christmas

Please remember to celebrate this holiday season safely.

If you will be in the market of purchasing a vehicle, then remember that the Texas Lemon Law generally does not apply to pre-own or used car.

For used vehicles, remember to cross check the vehicle's history by using both Carfax and Autocheck, as information in one report is not cumulative or comprehensive. The best suggestion to avoid owning a lemon is to use common sense and ask lots of questions. I know that the pre-own car salesperson may be pushy -- just push back. For more suggestions, then go here.

For new cars, remember also to ask lots of questions and gather as much information as possible. Do research before you get to the dealership.

I wish everyone a lemon-free holiday (unless the lemon in your holiday is a lemon pie). Feel free to email or call my office if you have any questions regarding the Texas Lemon Law for new cars.

October 26, 2009

Top Lemon Laws Consumers Should Know About

Lemon laws protect car buyers who have repeatedly tried to fix cars, to no avail. While laws vary by state, one of the strongest is the Texas lemon law, on which other state laws are modeled. There are also federal laws that further protect consumers. Consumers can use these lemon laws to get a refund or replacement for cars that require excessive repairs to fix warranty-covered problems.

Texas Lemon Law: The law applies to new automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, RVs, and towable recreational vehicles. These vehicles must have problems covered by a written factory warranty; claims must be filed within 6 months of the expiration of the warranty, 24 months, or 24,000 miles, whichever comes first. The law requires 2 repair attempts in the first 12 months or 12,000 miles and another 2 attempts in the second 12 months or 12,000 miles. If the problem is a serious safety hazard, it only requires 1 repair attempt in the first 12 months or 12,000 miles and at least one more in the second 12 months or 12,000 miles. The law also covers vehicles that are out of service for 30 days.

California Lemon Law: This law applies only to vehicles used for home or personal use. It requires 4 repair attempts or 30 days out of service within 18 months or 18,000 miles. If the problem could cause death or serious injury, it only requires 2 repair attempts.

Florida Lemon Law: This law applies only to vehicles used for home or personal use, but doesn't cover off-road vehicles, motorcycles, mopeds, or trucks that weigh over 10,000 pounds. Claims must be filed within 24,000 miles of the vehicle's delivery, with at least 3 repair attempts or 30 days out of service.

Idaho Lemon Law: It covers all new vehicles, whether for personal or business use, but doesn't cover motorcycles, farm equipment, trailers, or vehicles over 12,000 pounds. It requires 4 repair attempts or 30 business days out of use within 2 years, 24,000 miles, or the expiration of the warranty.

Uniform Commercial Code, Article Two: This is a federal statute that affirms the consumer's right to a replacement vehicle if they have complied with all procedures to replace a vehicle.

Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act: This federal statute protects consumers from companies that won't fulfill the warranty terms. Significantly, it applies to used cars with a warranty, requires companies to redress problems within a reasonable amount of time, and allows consumers to recover attorney's fees. The latter puts pressure on companies to resolve issues before they reach court.

Naturally, the ideal situation would be not to purchase a lemon in the first place. To avoid buying a lemon, buyers should research both the cars and car dealerships to find out about common problems and others' experiences. A third-party mechanic's review may also be helpful before purchase. But if a buyer does end up with a lemon, he or she can take some meager comfort in the fact that lemon laws allow them some recourse.

The following guest post was written by Christine Howell who frequently writes about Online Law Degree and college related topics for Online College Guru, an online college directory and comparison website.

October 25, 2009

Hyundai Lemon Law case over attorney fees

Hyundai recently lost a California Lemon Law case over attorney fees in the Court of Appeals of California -- Fourth Appellate District. The case revolves around Adina Vasquez's purchase of a defective 2005 Hyundai Sonata. Vasquez hired a lemon law attorney and sued under the California Song-Beverly Act and the Magnuson-Moss Act.

Vasquez was able to get a repurchase on the vehicle, but the issue of attorney fees remain pending. Thereafter, Vasquez's attorney sued for attorney fees in the amount of $51,012. Hyundai fought and the trial court agreed with Hyundai -- it refused to award any attorney fees to Vasquez's attorney. Vasquez's attorney took the case to the Fourth Appellate District Court of California.

In its unpublished decision dated on October 13, 2009, the appellate court sided with Vasquez in stating that Vasquez's attorney is entitled to "reasonable attorney fees." The case is remanded back to the trial court to determine the reasonableness of $51,012.

For more information, click on this pdf.

September 14, 2009

General Motor's Anti-Lemon Law Money Back Guarantee, with Strings.

Fifty billion dollars of taxpayer's bailout money and numerous lemon cars later, General Motors is attempting to regain consumer confidence and a segment of its lost shares in car sales by offering a sixty days (60) money back guarantee. The money back guarantee sounds enticing, but buyer beware,... like most offers in life, it comes with strings.

String #1: You must purchase a GM vehicle between today (September 14th) and midnight November 30th. Make sure that when you have finally agreed on a deal with the dealership, that all paperwork is dated within this time-frame. Do not allow the dealership to back date any documents you sign.

String #2: The vehicle must be a new 2009 or 2010 Buick, Cadillac, GMC, or Chevrolet. No used or pre-owned cars!

String #3:
You can only return the vehicle you purchased AFTER 31 to 60 days after purchase. Here is the kicker, upon return, you MUST have driven the vehicle less than four thousand (4,000) miles. That is about 67 miles to 129 miles per day. (You hot shot drivers who intend to use this vehicle for commercial purposes -- don't bother).

String #4: The money back guarantee DOES NOT include dealer installed accessories. Keep in mind that dealers add several hundreds to thousands of dollars in accessories as a way of making additional profits. Who wants new floor mats that has the GM logo engraved on it for about seventy-five dollars anyways?

String #5: The money back guarantee DOES NOT include negative equity. In other words, if you are planning on trading in a vehicle that is worth less than what you owe to your creditor (the car financing company) -- then DO NOT do it. In the event that you return this car within the requirements above, you are still responsible for the difference in negative equity (an amount that the dealer often absorbs).

I appreciate GM's new program and it appears that the company is heading toward a positive direction. However, please note that lemon cars often times don't manifest problems until after 3 to 6 months of ownership. Perhaps GM should focus on designing vehicles with engine and components that are more reliable,...and let its product speak for itself. Personally, I would rather buy fresh quality lemons and never have to worry about returning it than buying sub-par lemons only to have to deal with bringing it back to the store again. Hey -- it is your time and patience -- you decide what its worth.

January 30, 2009

Georgia's Lemon Law is now more similar to Texas Lemon Law

Near this time last year, my law clerk wrote a short article comparing the differences between Georgia and Texas Lemon Law. At that time, Georgia's Lemon Law was arguably weaker than in Texas, because the time and mileage eligibility was twice as short in Georgia.

For example, in Texas, a consumer can file a claim with the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDot) so long as it has been within 24,000 miles or 24 months from the date of ownership, whichever occurs first. Georgia at that time, only protects a consumer when the vehicle is within 12,000 miles or 12 months from ownership (whichever occurs first).

As of January 1, 2009, cars and most other vehicles purchased in the state of Georgia will be protected for 24,000 miles/24 month. Further, the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs of Georgia promises that its state lemon law process will be more "stream-lined" and consumer friendly (I guess they weren't very consumer friendly previously).

Under this new revision of Georgia Lemon Law, vehicles intended for use in small businesses are also covered, along with larger cars or trucks that are heavier (up to 12,000 pounds, ie: the gas guzzler Ford 350).

October 9, 2008

Minnesota Lemon Cars will now be branded like Texas Lemon Cars

At my lemon law office in Dallas, it is frustrating to learn about the pre-owned auction car market, where a defective lemon vehicle is transported from one state to another and then resold back to uninformed consumers who are not aware of the faulty vehicle's history. I get calls from potential clients about this issue on a daily basis and it is often referred to as lemon laundering.

Typically, lemon cars get transported into states with weak lemon law disclosure requirements. Why?...because car manufacturers know that they can do so and because it is legal.

For example, prior to August 1, many car manufacturers may have potentially targeted Minnesota as a state where it can dump many of its lemon inventory because Minnesota Lemon Law, in the past, did not require a lemon "stamp" on the vehicle's title. An unsuspecting car buyer in Minnesota, prior to August 1st, may never know that his or her used vehicle that was purchased at a local car lot has been subject to repeated repair attempts or may have serious safety defects....until the vehicle manifests a defect several days or weeks after owning the vehicle.

Now, similar to the Texas Lemon Law disclosure requirement, all vehicles that has been repurchased or replaced via Minnesota's lemon law will now have a "Lemon Law Vehicle" stamp on its title, similar to a flood damaged, prior salvage, or rebuilt stamps. This new provision of the law is aimed at providing consumer awareness and disclosure. However, just because a pre-owned vehicle doesn't have this lemon law stamp does not mean that it is lemon-free. For example, if a vehicle was repurchased or replaced prior to an official adjudication of the lemon law program, then it may still be a lemon and will not have any stamps attached to its title.

Please keep in mind that although my office handles lemon law related claims in Texas, we DO NOT handle pre-own are cases. For more information about Minnesota's lemon law stamp requirements, go here.

September 19, 2008

Texas Lemon Law and You – Recognizing and Remedying the Situation

The Texas Lemon Law was created to protect consumers when they lease or buy a new vehicle. This law covers new motor vehicles of all kinds that have required excessive repairs or trips to the shop to fix the same problem, which should be covered by the vehicle warranty. Additionally, this law helps consumers seek recourse from the company, the dealer, or the lender in the form of buying back the vehicle or loan, replacing the vehicle, or repairing the vehicle.

Recognizing a Lemon

How do you know if your car fits the description of a lemon according to the Texas Lemon Law? There are several different criteria that need to be looked into before considering filing a complaint regarding your vehicle.

• You must be the original owner of the vehicle.
• The vehicle must be under warranty, not an extended service contract.
• The problems you are experiencing must be covered by the vehicle warranty
• You must notify the dealer regarding the problem.
• You must let the dealer attempt to remedy the problem.
• You have repeatedly experienced the same problem (four or more times).
• You must notify the manufacturer’s regional office of the problem.
• Your vehicle is no longer safe to drive as a result, and is depreciating in value as a result of the problem.

If you are experiencing any of these problems, it is certainly time to file a Lemon Law complaint. This is where things can become tricky for some consumers.

Remedying the Problem

If your vehicle meets the above criteria, time is of the essence when filing a Lemon Law complaint. You must fill out the Lemon Law Complaint Form as soon as possible and pay the filing fee. After this, there are many different things that you will need to make sure are in order if you seek to have the problem alleviated. Find a good lawyer who specializes in this particular type of cases and consult with them regarding your case. The money and time you end up saving will be well worth it, especially if your car problems are taken care of in a timely fashion.

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This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of the criminal justice programs. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com.

August 24, 2008

Similar to Texas Lemon Law, Washington Lemon Law Requires Special Disclosures

Washington Lemon Law requires that repurchased or reacquired vehicles must have special disclosures so that consumers are informed of the vehicle's status when the consumer purchases the pre-owned vehicle. Specifically, a bright yellow flier must be placed on the vehicle's window and it must state, "Lemon Law Resale Notice of Nonconformity or Serious Safety Defect."

Recently, McCann Motors of Fife, Washington reached a settlement agreement with the Washington Attorney's Office over a controversy where the car dealership failed to provide the disclosure to seventy-nine customer who purchased luxury cars from the dealership.

Texas lemon law
also requires similar disclosures as Washington's lemon law. However, the law only requires such special disclosures only if the vehicle was repurchased or reacquired through the state's formal lemon law program -- that leaves out a lot of vehicle that has been repurchased informally without going through the lemon law arbitration/administrative program.

For example, if a consumer hires a lemon law attorney and is able to negotiate a repurchase without going through the lemon law program or filing a lawsuit, then that vehicle arguably does not require any special disclosures, but may potentially be a problematic lemon vehicle for subsequent owners.

August 1, 2008

Consumer must prove he did not abuse lemon law

One disadvantage that the Texas Lemon Law has as compared to other state lemon laws such as Wisconsin is that Texas Lemon Law does not provide for double or treble damages for the car dealership or manufacturer's willful or intentional conduct for thwarting its lemon refund or repurchase obligations.

Ironically, the tables are turned now for a consumer in Wisconsin. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a consumer who purchased a lemon car now has to prove that he did not in bad faith abuse the Wisconsin Lemon Law in order to obtain double damages against the car manufacturer.

For more information, click here.

July 24, 2008

Florida Lemon Law has a Birthday this month, turns 20 years old

Most, if not all 51 states have lemon laws that protect consumers against being stuck with a defective lemon car (some state laws are better than others). This month, the Florida Lemon Law, which is namely an arbitration program for consumers, has a twentieth (20th) birthday.

Comparatively, the Texas Lemon Law is arguably slightly better than the Florida Lemon Law (but not by far); primarily because Texas has a serious safety provision that Florida's lemon law lacks. The two state lemon laws can improve tremendously and help more consumers by providing for attorney fee shifting and also adding a garden variety provision for repair attempts that is not for the same defect.

All consumers should be aware that Florida's lemon law has strict rules and deadlines -- consumer must file a claim within the first 24,000 miles of delivery of the subject vehicle. In addition, there must be 3 unsuccessful repairs or 15 calendar days at the service center.

For more information about Florida's 20th birthday for its lemon law, go here.

July 20, 2008

Potential Electric Lemon Car for a Mail Carrier

At my Texas lemon law office, I often get calls from potential clients about problems on a variety of vehicles, including SUVS, trucks, sports cars, and compact cars. However, I have yet to receive a call for electric lemon cars, possibly due to the fact that electric cars are fairly new to the auto industry and car consumer markets.

Especially with how gas prices have exponentially increased within the past year, it is expected that electric cars will have a strong impact on many consumers' transportation choices.

In Washington, a mail carrier is finding that out that a lemon may occur in non-traditional gas vehicles also, specifically electric cars. Frost Freeman bought a Dynasty IT with the intention of using it to deliver mail while working for the Marrowstone Island Post Office. Unfortunately, 2 years after purchasing the vehicle, the vehicle doesn't hold a charge as advertised and failed to operate in a way she she expected. Ms. Frost recently filed a lemon law claim with the Washington State Attorney General's Office, hoping to seek a repurchase/buyback under Washington's Lemon Law.

For more information about Ms. Frost's story, go here.

July 1, 2008

Strong lemon law will be improved,... just not in Texas

California's already strong lemon law, the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, has been amended on January 1, 2008, to include military personnel stationed in California.

In the past, California's lemon law, similar to other lemon laws throughout the country (including Texas lemon law), is only applicable inside the state where the consumer purchased the subject vehicle. In other words, proper jurisdiction is directly related to the state where the purchase transaction took place.

With this new amendment, military service personnel who is stationed in California at the time the vehicle was purchased or the time the lemon law action is filed, can lean on California's lemon law to get a repurchase or replacement on a defective vehicle. This is strategically a benefit and convenience for our men and women in the military, especially if they purchased the vehicle or reside in a state where the lemon law is not as strong as California.

Specifically, where a consumer's car is ineligible for a repurchase in Texas because the deadline to file has padded, if that consumer was stationed in California at the time of purchase or the time they file a lemon law claim, then he or she can forgo the harsh Texas Lemon Law program and file under the California Lemon Law program instead.

June 24, 2008

Helpful consumer laws besides the Texas Lemon Law

Jim Donovan from CBS 3 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania recently wrote an online story regarding alternative recourses that consumers have, especially in situations where state lemon laws are inapplicable.

Specifically, Mr. Donovan properly pointed out that the federal Magnuson Moss Act may help consumers who suffer damages from being sold defective vehicles, even pre-owned or used cars with warranty.

Here, the Texas lemon law is very restrictive in terms of rebuttable presumptions and the deadline to file a claim. When a potential client comes to my office and the deadline to file a claim under the Texas Lemon Law has passed, I usually explore with the consumer on whether the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices (DTPA) or the federal Magnuson Moss Act would help them.

For more details on Mr. Donovan's article, go here.

June 2, 2008

Used Car generally not applicable to most state Lemon Laws

Action Express, a consumer advocacy group in New Jersey, recently posted a response to a consumer's questions as to whether their used lemon car qualifies for New Jersey's lemon law.

Although New Jersey has a provision to protect car buyers of pre-owned lemon cars, the provisions are limited. For example, the law requires that the subject vehicle must be: 7 model years or less, cost at least $3,000, and have less than 100,000 miles at the time of purchase.

The key to protecting yourself and making sure you qualify for NJ's provision for used lemon cars?....make sure you meet the 3 requirements above and make sure the vehicle is not sold "as is."

Comparatively speaking, the Texas Lemon Law is available to new cars only, with limited exceptions for used cars where the factory warranty was still active at the time of purchase.

May 7, 2008

Texas Lemon Law better than Missouri's newly proposed lemon law?

I often joke about how the Texas Lemon Law should be better known as the car manufacturer's lemon law because of its bias in favor of the manufacturers and its dealers, rather than favoring or protecting automobile consumers. Today, I am happy to report that at least the Texas Lemon Law is better than Missouri's newly proposed lemon law against fraudulent, deceptive, and misrepresentation cases.

The newly proposed Missouri Lemon Law will increase its restrictions by disallowing consumers to go after car wholesalers in court. With the new law, consumers can only pursue car dealerships and possibly the car manufacturers. The law is intended to reverse the recent Missouri Supreme Court decision that found in favor of consumers by allowing victims who are sold lemon cars to go after both the car dealer and its wholesalers. The law has not passed yet and will go to the governor of Missouri for signage.

For more information, go here.

April 21, 2008

Consumer's lemon law conflict with Ford

Dave, a consumer internet blogger, recently wrote about his experience with his Ford lemon vehicle (click here for his post). Like most other consumers, Dave provided Ford with ample opportunity to do the right thing. Ford not only failed to do the right thing, but it seems that Ford has lost another loyal customer.

I wrote to Dave offering assistance and here is his response, "I appreciate your concern, but I have conceded defeat in this matter. As the 'little guy', I cannot compete with Ford Motor Company under the law. My belief that I was 'doing the right thing' by giving them the chance to repair the vehicle, 'bit' me, as FMC is unconcerned with 'doing the right thing."

If you have a Texas lemon vehicle, please make sure that you document everything. Regardless of whether you go with my law firm or my competitor, it is important that you do something to make sure that Ford or other manufacturers such as Chrysler or Mazda does not win for selling you a lemon.

March 3, 2008

Missouri Lemon Law restricts consumers to only suing dealer

In Missouri, the House recently approved a lemon law bill that limits consumer's right to only sue the car dealer and no one else. That's right, no one else, including the car manufacturer or others who were involved in selling the consumer the lemon vehicle.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Jay Wasson and harshly opposed by Kansas City representative John Burnett, who is a Democrat. The lemon law bill is called HB1970 and has been sent to the Senate. There is currently no calendar date for it and the proposed effective date for it is 08/28/2008.

I personally would oppose this bill because it is written too narrow. There are many situations where it is important for the consumer to have the right to sue other parties besides the car dealers in lemon law related claims, especially in resale situations.

I urge folks who reside in Missouri to please write to your state representative and voice your opposition to this bill. For more information about the bill, go here and here.

February 19, 2008

Used Texas Lemon car that does NOT qualify under the Texas Lemon Law?

Ever wonder what happens to life after death? Of course, I will not be analyzing such a complex issue, but in a similar line of thought,... have you ever wondered what happens to lemon cars that have been repurchased or bought back from car manufacturers? Or, ever wonder what happens to wrecked or salvaged cars?

Last week, fellow Lemon Law attorney and blogger, Jonathan Rudnick, wrote a short article that might have partially answered this hypothetical question. His article focuses on how there exists an entire market for buying and selling damaged cars.

This makes sense, because it is impractical and unprofitable for car manufacturers to simply dismantle and take lemon cars out of commission when it is so much easier to possibly sell it to another uninformed buyer who is in the market of buying a preown car. The Texas Lemon Law covers used car cases in very LIMITED situations. As a general rule, the law is intended to protect new car buyers.

I challenge car manufacturers such as Ford, Chrysler, and Mazda to re-consider their practices of lemon laundering and think about how unethical it is to pass along their problems to consumers. If there has been a lemon law buyback on a car with airbag or seat belt defects, does it make sense to put it back into the market used car market?

Lemon car recycling is bad.

February 15, 2008

The Texas Lemon Law hates nice guys (consumers) and I agree

Dave, a fellow internet blogger, recently wrote about his experience of how a consumer can be put in a disadvantaged position for being a nice person. I must say, I do agree and hear about these situations more often then not.

In a nutshell, Dave experienced defects on his Ford truck early on during his ownership of the vehicle. He brought the vehicle in at least 7 times to the Ford service center. Each time, they repaired something, but the problems keep coming back. Now that Dave's warranty is about to expire, he finds himself with limited options.

The reason why his options are limited is because the Texas Lemon Law hates nice guys. Well, maybe it does not really hate nice guys, but it is certainly unfriendly to consumers who have a legitimate reasons for not pursing their claim early.

The law requires that you file a claim with the Texas Department of Transportation (DOT) within the first 24,000 miles or 24 months, whichever occurs first. After you miss that deadline, you have a 6 months grace period. After that, your options may be significantly more limited.

Some lessons to learn from Dave's experience includes,... file your lemon law claim early! If you do not file early, at least speak to a lemon lawyer like myself as early as possible to know your rights and what to look out for. My parents always tell me, "the worse thing you could do is wait until after you've broken the dish to find out the ceramics are fragile -- ask first and ask early."

To read more about Dave's experience and article, go here.

February 12, 2008

Similarities between Texas Lemon Law and Michigan Lemon Law

Renee Walsh, a fellow blogger and attorney, recently wrote a very informative blog article regarding the Michigan Lemon Law and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

Ms. Walsh's article mentions the lack of coverage that current Michigan Lemon Law has on used or preowned cars. Thereafter, she explores alternative remedies that a consumer may have against sellers of used and defective cars. The article also outlines the the exact language of the Michigan consumer protection statute.

Similar to Michigan, Texas has a Texas Lemon Law that aims to protect buyers of new cars. Further, Texas also has a consumer protection law, entitled Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). The DTPA has been successfully used to sue car car dealers for deceptive and dishonest practices.

For more about the article, please go here.

January 20, 2008

Unlike Texas residents, Manitoba auto buyers couldn’t get "lemon" aid under any lemon laws

In the United States, a car that has been labeled a “lemon” has significant problems. Often times, the car manufacturer has been unable to fix the vehicle after numerous repair attempts. Usually, each state has its own lemon laws (such as the Texas Lemon Law). In Canada, however there is currently no similar law that protects the selling of “lemons.”

Since there is not a law in Canada that prohibits the selling of “lemons,” Canadian consumers may be unaware that they are purchasing a defective car. It has been reported that more than 130 lemons have been sold to Canadian consumers. The act of exporting lemon cars from one geographic location to another is also better known as lemon laundering. Here, manufacturers are exporting lemons from the United States and reselling it to Canadian residents without properly disclosing the lemons status of the vehicle.

The Manitoba government (Manitoba is a province in Canada) previously had no plans on adding, changing, or amending any legislation that would address this issue. Now, it has reconsidered the issue and an amendment may be tabled as early as next spring.

The article above is written by J. Jones. It summarizes CBC’s recent article on Manitoba’s lack of lemon laws for citizens of its province. Ms. Jones is a law clerk at my office.

January 16, 2008

Texas Lemon Law versus Georgia Lemon Law

What do you do when your brand new vehicle is already out of commission and you purchased the vehicle new in Georgia? If this scenario sounds familiar to you, then the Georgia Lemon Law might be helpful in your case.

In Georgia, anyone who has purchased, registered, or leased a new vehicle gains protection against recurring defects. A new vehicle is covered under this law for the first 12 months after the day the car was delivered or the first 12,000 miles of use.

If a problem keeps occurring even after numerous attempts to repair it, the car buyer may apply for an arbitration hearing in order to decide if the buyer is entitled to a refund or replacement vehicle.

Comparatively, Texas Lemon Law has a longer deadline (statute of limitation) time period.

Specifically, Texas Lemon Law allows a consumer to participate in the lemon law administrative hearing if a case was filed within 24 months from the date of delivery or 24,000 miles. This is 12,000 extra miles/12 months extra that a car buyer in Texas has over a consumer in Georgia.

The above posting is K. Johnson's summary of TheWeekly.com's recent article on Georgia Lemon Law. Ms. Johnson is a law clerk at my law office.

January 7, 2008

My Top Five (5) Texas Lemon Law Article of 2007

As we say goodbye to 2007, I have compiled a list of top 5 Texas Lemon Law articles I've written this year. The purpose of this is to re-cap articles that I find is helpful for consumers who may be stuck with a lemon car.

1) Lemon Laundering -- this article defines what lemon laundering is about and also provides a background on how the coin is termed.

2) Tricks that car manufacturers, dealers, and service centers use to avoid liability under the Texas Lemon Law.

3) Three factors or requirements of the Texas Lemon Law.

4) Deadline to the Texas Lemon Law. Don't wait until it's too late!

5) This article talks about whether used or pre-owned cars are included in the Texas Lemon Law. Keep in mind that there may be other laws that may help you as well.

December 30, 2007

What is lemon laundering?

Lemon laundering is the practice whereby car manufacturers resell a vehicle to a third innocent subsequent car buyer after it has been repurchased or replaced from the original car owner under applicable state lemon laws. Here at my Dallas, Texas lemon law practice, I get calls about this very often.

The term "lemon laundering" is believed to be first used by Gayle Pena to describe a personal experience she had with purchasing a pre-owned/used lemon car. The car she purchased was a Chevrolet Suburban with defective brakes and transmission.

Contrary to popular belief, the act of lemon laundering is not necessarily illegal, as states have different and varying lemon laws -- it is, however, highly unethical. Unfortunately, car manufacturers are not in the business to be ethical and do it more often than not.

Some state lemon laws do not even address or acknowledge that such practices exist. In fact, car manufacturers use this fact to its advantage to get rid of lemon cars that have previously been repurchased or replaced.

Here's how the scenario works, a car manufacturer drafts an Excel worksheet that lists all 50 state lemon laws in the United States, indicating which state lemon law requires a formal disclosure to consumers that a vehicle has been marked a lemon due to a repurchase or replacement status. The car manufacturers then transports those lemon cars to be sold in those specific states that do not require lemon disclosures.

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Image Source: www.safetyforum.com/lemon

Please contact your state legislatures about this loophole in your state lemon law. Do not wait until you've been a victim of lemon laundering to act against these car manufacturer's unethical behavior.

December 25, 2007

Will Texas Lemon Law mimic Wisconsin's proposed puppy lemon law?

The state of Wisconsin is considering a puppy lemon law to protect consumers from puppies or animal with health problems that are unknown to the buyer and were not disclosed prior to the time of purchase by the seller. This will help combat puppy mill establishments and also shift the responsibility over to sellers of puppies and other animals.

This type of law is aimed to avoid a situation where a consumer purchases a puppy/animal and later finds out that the animal has health problems that requires thousands of dollars in subsequent medical bills.

Currently, the Texas Lemon Law does not officially cover animal or puppy lemon laws. I would find it difficult for Texas to mimic or follow suit because the current Texas Lemon Law is being administered by the Texas Department of Transportation to adjudicate defective lemon vehicle claims.

A consumer may be able to file a claim against a pet seller under the current Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). However, I would like to see the Texas DTPA be updated and expanded with more specific language to cover puppy or other animal purchases so that there is a bright-line test as to what is considered a lemon and what is not.

December 12, 2007

Consumer paints lemons on her lemon car and parks it outside near the dealership of purchase

Often times, consumers who purchased lemon cars call my office to seek guidance under the Texas Lemon Law, but I have yet to encounter a potential client that has done this before...

To signify that the vehicle she purchased is a lemon, Christy Direnzo painted yellow lemons and the car dealership’s name on a car she purchased from DJ Enterprises. Thereafter, she parked it near the dealership to warn other car buyers. When she purchased the car, she was informed it only needed $300 worth of repairs. She soon found out it needed approximately $1,500 in repairs.

Another car buyer in Charleston, South Carolina, Mary Grodjeski, also bought a truck from the same dealership. A few weeks later, the transmission and engine went out. Both women tried to take the vehicles back to the dealership in order to get their money back, but were refused. The dealership claims that the vehicle was sold "as-is."

Consumer lawyer, Steven Moskos, informs them of the revocation of acceptance statute that allows a person to ask for a refund based on defects that show up in a reasonable amount of time. This statute is usually not enforced by any state agency and must be fought in civil court. Also, it is easier to win a suit if a warranty or service contract was purchased and the dealership refuses or cannot fix the vehicle.

Unfortunately, if the situation is not covered by state lemon laws that has attorney fee shifting provisions that require the dealership or car manufacturer to pay for the consumer's attorney fees, then cases like these might be cost prohibitive to sue on because of the costs of litigation.

For more information on the story, go here.

December 11, 2007

Jalopnik's coverage and guide of car lemon laws

Jalopnik, an online website dedicated to car fanatics, recently posted a guide to lemon laws. Although the discussion on this article did not mention specific Texas Lemon Law, it is still worth a good read to learn about general lemon laws and other related laws that might be helpful to consumers with broken cars.

The article also mentions information about the Magnuson Moss Act, one way arbitration programs, and the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) AutoLine Lemon Law program. Unfortunately, the article attributed Kate Moss to being the co-author of the Magnuson Moss Act -- it is actually Frank E. Moss.

November 28, 2007

Update on Australia's upcoming lemon law

Last month, I compared the current Texas Lemon Law with Australia's upcoming lemon law and also provided information on how Australia's new lemon law invites feedback from the Australian public.

This morning, I received notice of a public hearing at the Wangaratta (Australia) forum yesterday, where consumers and the public are being asked to provide input and ideas of what requirements to include and exclude in the lemon law for new cars.

So far, it seems like Consumer Affairs Minister, Tony Robinson is doing a great job of investigating the issues surrounding the responsibly of drafting a car lemon law that would be beneficial to the people it is intended to help, consumers. At the forum, Mr. Robinson states that a motor car is the second largest purchase that Victorians make. He also mentions that currently in Australia, most car manufacturers are only required to repair defects, not replace or refund broken cars.

November 26, 2007

Texas lemon law for wheelchairs

As an attorney who frequently handles Texas lemon law cases, I often receive calls from potential clients regarding lemon law coverage for non-vehicles such as computers, electronics, and other consumer household items.

Unfortunately, at this time, the Texas lemon law does not extend to non-vehicle related items (other state and federal consumer warranty laws may help you instead). One alternative is to look up the dealer or supplier of the wheelchair and file a Better Business Bureau claim (BBB) against the people who made or sold the wheelchair.

Interestingly, this morning, I came across a very interesting article today regarding lemon laws for wheelchairs, but only if you purchased the wheelchair within the state of New Jersey. The "wheelchair lemon law" was enacted a little over ten years ago to protect NJ residents from manufacturers of defective lemon wheelchairs.

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It is important to note that this law only applies to wheelchair manufacturers and not suppliers. The article further goes into detail about what the wheelchair purchaser (plaintiff) went through before they were able to settle the case out of court.

If I have a wish list when it comes to the ability to amend or modify the current Texas lemon law, I would change it to include additional consumer items, such as wheelchairs, consumer safety equipment, limited appliances, and some electronic devices that costs above a specific amount.

November 19, 2007

Essential documents to bring at the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Arbitration or the Texas lemon law administrative hearing

Regardless of whether you are scheduled to attend either the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Arbitration or the Texas lemon law administrative hearing (in order to get a lemon vehicle buyback or replacement), it is important to be prepared with essential documents that will help you win your case.

Before proceeding further, I must caution you that although I am an attorney who concentrates my practice to Texas lemon law related cases, that the information found here is not and should not be treated as legal advice. The reason is because every case, regardless of how similar, is different. Therefore, this information is simply a public service presentation and you should contact a Texas lemon law attorney as soon as possible in the event that you have recently purchased a new lemon car.

Because both of the above-mentioned programs generally do not have an attorney fee shifting provision that requires the car manufacturer to pay for your attorney fees if you prevail -- having an attorney represent you in these hearing can be cost prohibitive. Under Texas lemon law, the only time the attorney fee shifting can be invoked by the consumer is when the automobile manufacturer is represented by an attorney at the hearing.

Documentation is key at the hearing. You must have written proof that your car meets the rebuttable presumption of the program. For example, if you are arguing that your car is a lemon because it has been subject to repairs for the illumination of the check engine light, then having for documented repair invoices issued by the service center will solidify your case, rather than relying on the arbitrator or administrative judge to take your word for it.

Continue reading "Essential documents to bring at the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Arbitration or the Texas lemon law administrative hearing" »

November 15, 2007

Nationwide lemon car tracking system/database

After over a decade (since 1992) of Congress' passage of a nationwide database that tracks lemon and stolen cars, the tracking system still remains to be completely implemented.

The Justice Department, the governmental body responsible for overseeing the program, cites that the primary reason for non-implementation is money. The Justice Department further states that it may cost about $11 million dollars to create and manage such a robust interstate database.

The database is part of the Anti Car Theft Act and is intended to track cars and trucks based on its' vehicle identification number (VIN). The database will include comprehensive information about a vehicle's lemon status, whether it is a stolen vehicle or not, and etc. The goal of having such a database is to control lemon-car laundering and to provide businesses and consumers with accurate information about a vehicle's history.

Currently, the database has been partially implemented in 9 states. Namely in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington. Texas has yet to be included in this database.

Under Texas lemon law, if a vehicle has been repurchased or replaced via the Texas Department of Transportation's (DOT) lemon law program, then the dealership is required to make appropriate disclosures about the lemon status of the vehicle. However, if the case has been settled outside of the program (for example, via a lawsuit), then it arguably may not require such disclosures.

For more information about the nationwide lemon car database, go here.

November 12, 2007

Texas Department of Transportation's (DOT) Texas Lemon Law Public Service Announcement (PSA)

While driving through Austin, Texas and listening to the radio in my Toyota Rav4 several months ago, I heard a public service announcement (PSA) about the "Texas Lemon Law". Apparently, the Texas Department of Transportation (DOT), the administrative body that is responsible for adjudicating Texas Lemon Law claims between the consumer and car manufacturers, paid local Austin radio stations to inform the public about the law and their legal rights...

The jingle, mixed with male vocals and a guitar being played in the background, goes as follows:

"If your car ... won't go ...
It's a lemon. It's a lemon.
But you should not despair ...
over having it repaired ...
the Texas Lemon Law is here"

Although I am intrigued that the Texas DOT is placing these PSAs in local city radios stations, I wish that they would also inform consumers of the deadlines to filing a claim under the Texas Lemon Law. Too often, I witness car buyers being victims to missing the deadline/statute of limitations.

For more information about the PSA, go here.

November 5, 2007

Texas lemon law deadline or statute of limitation (SOL)

The single most important information that consumers need to know about the Texas lemon law is the deadline to filing a timely claim. Unfortunately, the law does not require car dealers or manufacturers to affirmatively disclose this information. Therefore, new car buyers often find themselves ineligible for the Texas lemon law because they rely on the dealer's promise that the car is fixed and have waited to long to assert their rights.

Under Texas lemon law, a consumer must open a case with the Texas Department of Transportation (DOT) within 24 months from the automobile's date of purchase or within 24,000 miles, whichever occurs first. Please note that there is a 6 months grace period after the expiration of the deadline, but such grace period is very difficult to assess.

It is recommended that if you suspect that you have a lemon car, that you contact a Texas lemon law attorney as soon as possible -- or, at minimum, open a claim with the DOT immediately.

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October 25, 2007

Bucks County: Philadelphia Lemon Law does not apply to used cars

Recently, the Philly Burbs posted a brief question and answer section addressing the fact that Philadelphia's lemon law does not apply to used or preowned vehicle, regardless of the manufacturer's certification status.

The article recommends that used or preowned car buyers should check the vehicle's history by going to carfax.com before buying the vehicle. Also, the article suggests that a buyer should bring a friend who is knowledgeable about cars or a mechanic along to inspect the vehicle before purchasing.

In Texas, the lemon law generally does not apply to used cars. However, there may be limited exceptions. If you purchased a used vehicle that still has existing manufacturer's warranty, then contact my office for a free over the phone consultation.

October 21, 2007

New Jersey's former Lemon Law Unit Director now leads NJ'S Consumer League

Robert Russo, the former lemon law unit director of New Jersey now leads New Jersey's Consumer League. Russo is also a (former) mayor of Montclair, NJ and a former political science professor at Rutger and Montclair State University.

The Consumers League of New Jersey is a statewide consumer advocacy and educational group that is associated with its parent group, the National Consumers League.

In his new capacity as president of New Jersey's Consumers League, Russo plans to advocate for stronger lemon laws for the state of New Jersey. Further, he intends to educate the public on their rights on what to do in the event that the new car they purchased is a lemon.

For more information about Russo, go here.

October 19, 2007

Toyota Hilux = indestructible and anti-lemon law car?

Continuing on with the theme of cars that perform beyond the call of duty, today we look at a particular Toyota Hilux. Top Gear, a BBC automotive show, recently set out to test the commonly held belief that Toyota trucks are extremely durable. Top Gear is known for its creative and entertaining tests and this case was no exception.

The staff purchased a Toyota Hilux Diesel with 190,000 miles on it for approximately $2000. The vehicle had some body rust and was battered, but functioned well. They subjected this truck to numerous abuses.

First they drove it around Brsitol, sideswiped a stone wall and drove it into a tree. After prying the fender back, they kept on driving and tethered the truck onto the beach at low tide. The tide came in, the truck broke loose and was completely submerged. It was completely water logged and covered in silt. A mechanic working with only basic tools was able to get the truck drivable again in an hour (they did replace the windshield for safety).

Following the attempt to drown it, Top Gear ran the truck through a shed and dropped a caravan trailer on top of it and hit it with a wrecking ball. The truck sustained further body damage but was still functioning. Finally, they set the truck on fire. Even after this, once the fire burnt itself out, they were able to drive the truck into their set.

This has not been the show’s only encounter with the Hilux. In 2007, two presenters from the show became the first people to drive an automobile to the Magnetic north Pole (as determined by the 1996 measurement).

Continue reading "Toyota Hilux = indestructible and anti-lemon law car?" »

October 16, 2007

A market for lemon cars?

Many of us have bought used or pre-own cars (I have bought three in Dallas Texas) and had the experience of wondering if the price you were paying was fair, or if the car was a lemon under the Texas lemon law.

Back in 1970, economist George Akerlof examined this issue. He wrote a paper entitled “The Market for Lemons: Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism.” While he took the used car market as an example, his writing was applicable to many more buyer/seller situations.

Two aspects of the used car transaction were important to Akerlof. Not all used cars (or new cars) are of the same quality – some are in good condition and are solid vehicles, while others have many defects and are undesirable for potential buyers. This wide range of conditions reflects the quality heterogeneity of the pool of vehicles.

The second aspect was the asymmetry of information between the seller and the buyer. The seller may know a great deal about the vehicle being sold while the buyer knows very little. Additionally, some buyers will be able to more accurately assess the true condition of the vehicle that they are purchasing.

Continue reading "A market for lemon cars?" »

October 14, 2007

Some cars last 1 million miles, while others may be lemons.

When you buy a new car, how long should you expect it to last? If you purchased a new car and it is a defective lemon and you are negotiating with the manufacturer for a settlement, the issue of how much value you have received from the car will arise. Simply put, for this purpose under the Texas lemon law, a car’s lifetime is presumed to be 120,000 miles.

In other words, if you used a car for 12,000 miles, then you have “used up” 1/10 the value of the car. In reality, there are more details that factor in, such as the first time you had a problem with the car. Ignoring this, we can broadly figure that the manufacturer expects the car to last 120,000 miles.

In the past, it might have been expected for a car to only last that long, but many modern cars can easily make it further. Currently, the US Department of Transportation reports that the lifespan of a car is 12 years and/or 128,000 miles. John Ibbotson, a supervisor with Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center, says that this figure is so low because of failure of some owners to properly maintain their vehicles. With proper maintenance, you new car might easily make it to 200,000 miles.

Continue reading "Some cars last 1 million miles, while others may be lemons." »

October 9, 2007

Australian government invites feedback for its upcoming lemon law

At my Dallas based law office, I often refer to the Texas lemon law as the manufacturer's lemon law, because it is arguably apparent that the law favors car manufacturer more than consumers. For example, the mileage deduction that the manufacturers are entitled to in the event of a repurchase or replacement may often be so high that it causes consumers to be upside down; making the consumer worse off then a regular car trade in.

Last week, I posted an article comparing the "Texas Lemon Law" against the upcoming new Australian Lemon Law. This morning, I stumbled upon an update with Australia's drafting and legislation of the upcoming lemon law.

It looks like Tony Robinson, Australia's Consumer Affairs Minister will invite both consumers and industry representatives to provide feedback and input on the new law. Those who are interested in participating in drafting the new Australian lemon law has until November 23, 2007 to write to the ministry.

Hopefully, Australian consumers and the public will provide adequate feedback in a way that would make the new Australian lemon law more favorable to consumers than the current Texas lemon law. Perhaps one day, the Texas lemon law will be amended in a way that would be better for car buyers.


October 7, 2007

Lemon Law: consumer sues Aston Martin for making defective luxury car

A consumer in Missouri is suing British car manufacturer, Aston Martin, for selling him a defective lemon car. His theory of recovery is derived from Missouri Lemon Law, federal warranty laws, and state consumer protection laws.

Like most of my clients throughout Texas ranging from the Houston, Austin, Laredo, and Dallas area, Gary Mathes paid full price for a new vehicle and later found out that the vehicle is defective. The vehicle has been subject to 12 separate repair attempts for engine, brakes, electrical, and miscellaneous other issues.

The difference between this situation and a typical lemon law case is that only a limited number of this particular Aston Martin vehicle is sold each year. This means that if the Aston Martin vehicle is deemed a lemon, then the remedy of replacement will not be available to Mr. Mathes. Alternatively, the remedy of repurchase or a monetary settlement is certainly an option.

The case is currently pending in federal court in St. Louis, Missouri. For more information, go here.

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October 4, 2007

Texas Lemon Law coverage in the Fort Worth Star Telegram newspaper

Too often, when faced with a new broken car, consumers are unfamiliar with their lemon law rights. Burdened with frustration and the runaround from car dealerships and the manufacturer, some consumers resort to trading in their vehicle at a substantial loss.

Recently, the Fort Worth Star Telegram wrote a brief summary about the Texas lemon law. Personally, I think that this public announcement is a very commendable thing that our local newspaper is doing.

In summary, the newspaper article accurately states that a consumer with a suspected lemon should contact the Texas Department of Transportation by calling the local toll free number immediately. In addition, there is a $35 fee, which is refundable to the consumer if the consumer wins the lemon case via the Texas DOT.

However, the article is silent on the deadline for filing a lemon law complaint. The statute of limitation for Texas lemon cases is usually 24,000 miles or 24 months from the date of purchase, whichever occurs first. If you have missed this deadline, then all hope is not lost, as other laws such as the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) or Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act may still help you.

Please contact a local Texas lemon law attorney for more information. Most lemon law attorneys practice statewide. For example, although my office is based in Dallas and a consumer with a problem car may live in Weatherford or Hillsboro, as long as the vehicle was purchased in Texas, then my office may be able to assist.

October 1, 2007

Will new Australian Lemon Laws be better than the Texas Lemon Law?

Update: See 10/9/07.

Often times, my lemon law practice in Dallas receives potential client calls from consumers who purchase defective cars from out of state. In such cases, I would direct them to find a lemon law attorney in that particular state -- as the vehicle's state of purchase is often the proper jurisdiction for these type of claims. Interestingly, I have not run into a situation where the consumer purchased the vehicle from out of the country....such as Australia.

According to the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), the Australian Government will soon join the ranks of other states and countries in providing its citizens with consumer lemon law protections. The proposed Australian lemon law is currently being drafted and is tentative.

It is speculated that the law, similar to the Texas lemon law, will require car buyers to bring the vehicle in for repeated repair attempts. The law will most likely have a provision for vehicles that have been at the service center for over a period of time -- such as 30 days or more. Other issues that remain uncertain are: (1) the statute of limitation (deadline to filing a lemon law claim), (2) safety defects, (3) warranty disclosures, and (4) attorney fee shifting provisions.

As a comparison, in Texas, in order to meet the rebuttable presumption on a lemon law case, the consumer must meet one of the following: (1) four unsuccessful attempts for the same defect, (2) 30 days or more at the service center without a comparable loaner vehicle, or (3) two unsuccessful attempts for a serious safety issue.

Please note that the Texas lemon law is much more complex than the information that has been summarized above. If you suspect that you have a potential lemon vehicle, it is important to contact a lemon law attorney as soon as possible.

September 26, 2007

Lemon cars (vehicles) in civilian and military environments

In a civilian context, when you buy your new car, chances are that you will drive it on paved highways and roads -- perhaps rarely on a dirt road or park it on the grass. (For example, I commute from Fort Worth to my office in downtown Dallas on a regular basis and normally drive on concrete roadways such as interstate 75 and 360). Most production cars are designed with this assumption in mind, although some are designed specifically or off-roading.

If you were to take your average economy sedan and start driving over hills and into ditches,…you would soon be in trouble. A car manufacturer would probably not be overly sympathetic if you claimed that your Kia Rio was a lemon because it experienced multiple system failures while you were creating your own path through the Amazon rain forest.

Vehicles used by the military have quite different requirements. Military vehicles need to be able to traverse unpaved paths and go cross-country. There are some vehicles that have made the transition from military to consumer use. A recent example of this is GM’s High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle HMMWV (aka Hummer). The model line was expanded for the civilian market with scaled down versions, the H2 and H3. In 2006, GM announced that it would no longer market the original full sized H1 Hummer.

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Long before the Hummer, there was the Jeep. The Jeep was the prototypical army-to-civilian vehicle. The U.S. Army received its first shipment of Jeeps in 1941 and the vehicle proved instrumental in the successful outcome of the war for the Allies. In the years since, it has proved popular with civilians, spawning a long line of derivative vehicles. Now, once again, the Jeep is returning to military use.

Continue reading "Lemon cars (vehicles) in civilian and military environments" »

September 22, 2007

Lemon Law Perspective: a comparison of Chevrolet's Aveo and Tata Motors Ltd's really cheap car

The 2008 Chevrolet Aveo has an EPA estimated rating of 24/34. It has a 1.6L 103 horsepower engine which gets you from 0 to 60 in a whiplash inducing 10.8 seconds. Standard equipment includes air conditioning (A/C). This vehicle can be yours for only $9,995 (base MSRP). Or -- if you haggle -- perhaps for a bit less. In the Houston and Austin area, that’s about all the new car you are going to get for under $10,000 (with the exception of arguably the Kia Rio). At minimum, the Aveo will be covered under the Texas lemon law in the event that there is a problem with its manufacturing.

But, cheaper cars are being produced.

Recently, Tata Motors Ltd. of Mumbai India announced that it would soon unveil a new car that would cost $2,472.18 (100,000 Rupees, as of 9/18/07). No name has been revealed yet. These will be manufactured at a plant in West Bengal.

This car is to have an engine with a displacement of .6L, generating 33 horsepower. Before you run and break open your piggy bank to see if you have enough pennies to buy one of these, be warned, this car will not conform to European safety and emissions requirements and is unlikely to meet US safety standards either. (Tata does claim that it will pass a crash test, but just what test was not specified).

In the unlikely event that you did procure one in the US and found it to be defective, you might have some difficulty holding Tata Motors Ltd. to the same standards that you are to which you are entitled to under existing Texas lemon law, products liability law, and consumer warranty law. While Tata will soon have dealerships in Kenya and Nigeria, it seems it had not opened for business in the US yet.

If you have a new car that is a lemon and you are within the state of Texas, then you have several possible avenues to obtain recourse. If you are in India, I would be unable to help you, but here is a start – good luck!

September 20, 2007

Jefferson County, Texas: Ford dealership sued over a lemon truck

Mike Stegall is suing Raiford Motors, an authorized Ford dealership, for selling him a lemon F50 pickup truck. According to the pleadings that was filed in the 136th Judicial District court, Stegall alleges that the vehicle was subject to repairs for at least 10 times since it was purchased. It appears that the case is currently pending in Judge Milton Shuffield's courtroom.

Stegall's causes of action stems from both the Texas Lemon Law and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). Stegall is asking the court to award him damages in the cost of the truck, damages under the DTPA, and court costs.

To learn more about the suit, go here. If you are in a similar situation as Mr. Stegall, then feel free to contact my Texas lemon law office for a free case review.

September 11, 2007

Are used or preowned lemon cars covered under the Texas Lemon Law?

As a lemon law practice in Dallas, Texas, my office receive calls from potential clients with used or pre-owned lemon cars very often. The first question asked is whether the Texas lemon law applies to pre-own or used car cases. Unfortunately, the short answer to that question is that, generally, the Texas lemon law does not include used vehicles.

One exception to this rule is if the preowned vehicle is still covered under the car manufacturer's existing warranty (and not the extended warranty), then the Texas Lemon Law "may" be used to force the manufacturer to repair the problem.

Specifically, section 2301.602 of the Texas Occupations Code dealing with the Regulation of Motor Vehicles and Transportation (better known as the "Texas Lemon Law"), only refers to "new motor vehicle(s)."

Therefore, it is of utmost importance to protect yourself before you make a used car purchase. I always recommend that a purchaser of a used car do some homework before visiting the used car lot or used car seller. Run car history reports from multiple vehicle history service report providers, instead of just one provider. Often times, information from one provider may be incomplete and may not include information that you would want to know about the vehicle. Some examples of vehicle history report providers are AutoCheck and CarFax.

In the event that you are an owner of a used lemon car and the Texas Lemon Law does not protect you, there may be other laws such as the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act that may help you with your situation.

September 7, 2007

Fuel Efficiency Ratings -- possible lemon law issue?

Recently, a concerned consumer in Houston, Texas contacted my law office about a new truck he had recently purchased. He was concerned that his vehicle might be a lemon because he had never been able to obtain the mileage that was shown on the information sticker when he purchased it. He wanted to know if there was any recourse under the state (Texas) lemon laws or fraud statutes because his vehicle appeared to fail to live up to the advertised specifications.

Without determining the strength or validity of any possible legal claims arising from this situation, lets take a few minutes to look at how those fuel efficiency numbers are obtained and why they are there.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), part of the federal government, requires that car manufactures test vehicles to determine their fuel consumption rate. Not every car produced is tested -- only a representative vehicle for the specific model. Typically the vehicle tested is a prototype -- before production is started. Some very large vehicles (as well as motorcycles) are currently exempt.

Vehicles are tested during simulated driving in a laboratory environment. The car is placed on a dynamometer (rollers under the wheels). The force needed to turn the dynamometer can be varied, thereby simulating different environmental conditions (e.g. headwind, uphill etc). While the car is on the dynamometer, the exhaust from the engine is collected and the amount of carbon emitted is measured. This amount is used to calculate the amount of fuel that is being consumed. The car is “driven” through a series of “courses” that are designed to mimic different types of driving conditions. Examples of the routes can be found at the Fuel Economy site.

Continue reading "Fuel Efficiency Ratings -- possible lemon law issue?" »

September 5, 2007

Economic benefits of keeping a non-lemon car for a long time

Having a reliable vehicle to commute in the Dallas and Fort Worth area is essential. If you purchase a new car and it is defective, you may seek recourse under Lemon Laws or product warranty laws. However, the normal hope is that your new car will be perfect and last for years. Some people like to trade their car in every couple of years, but those who maintain their cars can save a great deal of money.

Consumer Reports writes that owners who keep their car for 15 years or 225,000 miles may save $31,000 compared to an owner who trades their car in every 5 years. Using the example of a Honda Civic and taking into account depreciation, taxes, fees, and insurance, an owner holding on to the car for 15 years would save $20,500. In addition to these savings, our hypothetical owner could make $10,300 by investing the money that would have been spent on new cars.

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Consumer Reports also compiled a list of cars that are more likely to make it to 200,000 miles. Included in this list are many cars by Honda and Toyota (included are: Civic, Lexus ES, Lexus LS, Toyota 4Runner, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Land Cruiser). It also published a list of vehicles that were not such good bets to make it to 200K threshold. These included such popular (and pricey!) vehicles as the V8-powered Mercedes-Benz M-class, Mercedes-Benz SL, BMW 7-series, Infiniti QX56, Jaguar X-type, V8-powered Volkswagen Touareg, and the V6-powered Volvo XC90.

Proper maintenance and care can help increase your car’s lifespan and protect your financial investment in it. Read your owner’s manuals and maintenance guide. Change your oil regularly and make repairs when parts do fail. Of course, if you bought a new car in Texas, have multiple failures within the first two years or 24,000, then you may have a lemon.

September 3, 2007

Dallas, TX: How-to prepare for your Better Business Bureau (BBB) Lemon Law Arbitration Hearing

In Texas, most car manufacturers participate in the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Lemon Law Arbitration program. Because this arbitration program does not award consumer attorney fees, a car owner may often find himself/herself going through the arbitration process on his or her own. If this is your situation, then below are some helpful suggestions on how to win your lemon law arbitration hearing.

* Please note that the information below and on this website are not legal advice. Contact a lemon law attorney for information that is specific to your situation. These suggestions are based on my experience with the BBB lemon law arbitration program here in Dallas, other locations may vary. If you are in Dallas or anywhere in Texas, then feel free to contact my office.

Tip number 1: Take a deep breathe. Most arbitrations are less formal than a trial. The arbitrator understands that this will be your first time.

Tip number 2: Bring the lemon vehicle to the hearing. The arbitrator will most likely want to test drive it to verify the problems with the vehicle. Make sure that the vehicle is clean so that the arbitrator does not get the impression that you are not following all maintenance schedules for the vehicle.

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August 23, 2007

Lemon Car: Toyota Prius may be a defective car by design

Consider the danger of driving a vehicle and having it suddenly surge or lunge forward uncontrollably. This is what happened to several Toyota Prius owners recently who described their experience as an "uncontrollable acceleration." One Prius owner stated that his lemon car "took off like a rocket."

According to two articles, published by ConsumerAffairs.com, despite repeated complaints and requests for repair by these owners, Toyota service centers minimized the concern and insisted that this was nothing more than "a carpet jamming the accelerator pedal or driver error."

If this has happened only once before, then this rationale may be a plausible reason for the abnormal defect. However, if there has been numerous complaints of similar problems by different Prius owners, then either Toyota or its technicians are careless in its diagnostics, or it seems, to me, that there may be intentional misrepresentations here. This is a products liability issue.

If you happen to be in a similar situation with your lemon vehicle, it is important to do the following to preserve your rights as a consumer:

First, get everything in writing. For example, if the service manager indicates to you that this is merely driver error, then ask him to write that on the repair invoice. Thereafter, remove the carpet from your vehicle and see if the same problem reoccurs. If it does, then it would be difficult for the same service manager to negate his or her diagnostic error when you bring the vehicle in again for the same problem.

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August 21, 2007

Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) lemon law arbitration program, an overview

Aside from the Texas lemon law, consumers of defective cars may file a claim against a car manufacturer through the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Lemon Law Arbitration Program. Usually, the BBB arbitration program is binding to the manufacturer and non-binding to the consumer.

This article will not discuss the benefits or disadvantages of participating in this program, as each case is different and it is best that you contact a lemon law attorney to determine which options may be best for you.

The first step in opening a claim with the BBB program is to determine if your car manufacturer participates in the arbitration program in your state. The second step is to file a claim with the BBB either by telephone or online at the BBB website.

After you have submitted your basic information, the BBB mails you a “Customer Claim Form.” You will need to complete the form and mail it back to the BBB within a certain amount of time. Thereafter, the BBB will use the information that you have provided to determine whether your vehicle is eligible to participate in the program or not – this is normally based on the current mileage on your vehicle and how long it has been since the time that you purchased the alleged lemon car.

The next step involves the BBB case handler contacting you and the manufacturer to informally resolve the “lemon dispute” on your car. Typically, the manufacturer will take on the position of denying your claim and possibly offering you an extended warranty. If you do not accept the extended warranty offer, then you may request or move to have your claim proceed to arbitration.

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August 20, 2007

Defective lemon homes

We are going to take a break from discussing lemon cars and turn our attention to houses that are lemons. Much like in the case of vehicles, the construction and materials used in a new house can also be defective. However, unlike the case of vehicles, where there is a strong established history of state and federal law (e.g. Magnuson Moss Warranty Act), home buyers are treading in much less chartered waters.

New cars are simpler and more straightforward ‘devices’ than new homes are. Cars are massed produced and the specification for a particular make and model should be the same for each vehicle. A vehicle goes through extensive testing and validation during the design phase and the resulting vehicle is well defined. This information is used by the manufacture in marketing the vehicle and is available to the consumer in the form of specification sheets, technical service bulletins, and user’s manuals.

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More and more, houses are also being mass-produced, either entirely – as in mobile homes or pre-fabricated homes, or in parts – as in the case of prefabricated trusses and sections. A new house has the potential for much more customization and variability than a new car does. While you have options as far as color and added features, many new homes are close to unique. An additional variable when considering a new home is the environment, including the land the house is built on, the amount of annual rain the area receives, the temperature range to which the house will be subjected to, and etc.

I do not want to give the impression that the materials and mechanics of house construction are not well understood. Humans have been building structures far longer than they have been building cars and there is a vast area of civil and mechanical engineering and material science dealing with the construction of structures.

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August 15, 2007

Porsche and the lemon law

The owner of a Porsche with a defective spoiler deployment system was awarded $226,160 – plus he gets to keep the car. (Notice: I did not handle this case. Please read further).

This case involves Bruce Tammi’s 2003 Porsche 911 Turbo coupe. Mr Tammi originally leased his Porsche. During the first year of the lease, Tammi brought the vehicle in for repairs six times for a spoiler which would not properly deploy and retract. After making $57,458 in lease payments (and having experienced this problem) he opted to buy the car for $75,622.

Tammi, himself a lawyer, undertook lemon law proceedings against Porsche. At trial, in Federal court, Porsche unsuccessfully argued that the malfunctioning spoiler represented only an inconvenience and did not impair the use or operation of the vehicle. Tammi prevailed at trial and a jury awarded him $26,000. Judge Charles Clevert Jr, the U.S. District Court judge who presided over the trial, determined that the jury’s award was improper under Wisconsin’s lemon law. He changed the award to $266,160. Judge Clevert arrived at this figure by taking the total amount that Tammi had paid – both in lease payments and in purchase price, and doubling that value. Clevert stated that "Tammi's receipt of double damages plus his retention of the car together do not seem unreasonably harsh in light of the purposes of the lemon law statute. If they appear too harsh for Porsche, Porsche should direct its concerns to the state legislature."

Tammi indicated that he would have settled the case for much less, had Porsche been receptive to his earlier offers. Porsche is considering their appellate options

Manufacturers and dealers are required to provide a product that performs as advertised. If they do not, they are required to repair it within the terms of the provided warranty. Under existing lemon laws, when this fails to happen, the purchaser is entitled to some compensation such as cash or a replacement vehicle. The goal is to be fair to all parties.

If you think that you have a lemon vehicle, you may want to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.

August 4, 2007

Frank Moss, the second co-creator of a consumer law that helped shape lemon laws in the United States (Part Two)

This is the second of a two part series on the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act – a piece of legislation that is central to many automobile lemon law claims. Last time, we looked at the life of William Grant Magnusson. This time, we will examine the other legislator whose name this legislation bears.

Frank Edward Moss (September 23, 1911 – January 29, 2003) was born in Utah – the state he would later represent in the Senate. Like William Magnusson, Moss was also a lawyer by training, graduating from the George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C., in 1937. Following graduation, he served on the staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 1937, he returned to Utah where he served as a municipal court judge and then as a county attorney. Following an unsuccessful bid for the governorship of Utah in 1956, he was elected to the US Senate in 1958.

In the Senate, Moss took a particular interest in health care, environmental, and consumer issues. In 1967, he wrote a book entitled “The Water Crisis” dealing with issues of water use and pollution, especially in the Western portion of the United States. Moss was instrumental in legislation concerning fair packaging and labeling and truth in lending. He was active in health related legislating, being one of the original sponsors of Medicare and authoring the ban on TV cigarette advertising.

In 1976, he lost his Senate seat to Orrin Hatch and returned to the practice of law. Since Moss, Utah has not sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate.

Both Magnusson and Moss shared a deep interest in protecting the health, safety and rights of the individual; from the safety of toys, to health care, to the Product Warranty and Guarantee Act. While lemon law attorneys frequently mention and use the “Mag-Moss” Act, we should occasionally pause and reflect on the great good that these two important legislators did for many other aspects of individual rights and health.

August 3, 2007

William Magnusson, the co-creator of a consumer law that helped shape lemon laws in the United States (Part 1)

If you spend much time reading “lemon law” sites or talking to a “lemon law” lawyer, you are bound to hear the term “Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act”. This piece of legislation (sometimes abbreviated as Mag-Moss) is an important piece of federal law dealing with consumer warranties. It was enacted in 1975 in response to deceptive practices on the part of manufacturers and distributors. This is the keystone of many lemon law suits. While the mention of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is common, there is rarely any discussion about the two legislators for whom the act is named.

William Grant Magnusson (April 12, 1905 - May 20, 1989) spent 45 years of his life as representative of the people of Washington state. He was a lawyer by training and graduated from the University of Washington Law school in 1929. After graduation, he practiced law in Seattle, including a position as a special prosecuting attorney in King County in 1931. His interest in politics started early and he was a founding member of the Young Democrats of Washington. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1936 and was reelected three times. Magnusson served with Lyndon B. Johnson on the House Naval Affairs Committee. They remained friends. When Magnusson was married in 1964, LBJ was his best man.

In 1944, Magnusson was appointed to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate. He continued to serve continuously in the Senate until he was defeated in 1980. During his tenure in the senate, Magnusson fought strongly for funding for the state of Washington. Vice President Walter Mondale said of him: “He is scrupulously fair with federal funds; one half for Washington state, one half for the rest of the country.”

Magnusson was key to the development of many important institutions. He sponsored legislation that lead to the creation of the National Institutes of Health, He also sponsored legislation creating the National Health Service Corps and public television. He was instrumental in the passage of consumer rights and protection legislation, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, Fair Credit Advertising Act, as well as legislation ranging from requiring warnings on cigarette packages to the protection of marine wildlife in Puget Sound.

While in the area of warranty law, William Magnusson is known for his work protecting the consumer, his legacy is far greater than that, touching almost every aspect of American life.

July 29, 2007

Why are bad cars called lemons?

Lemons are healthy fruits, rich in vitamin C and other nutrients, used in a myriad of wonderful products, from lemonade and lemon meringue pie to cleaning agents. So, why do we call bad cars lemons?

The Online Etymology Dictionary indicates that there are several possible origins for ‘lemon’ being used to refer to an inferior product. One possibility is that it came from early 20th century American slang, where a ‘lemon’ referred to "a person who is a loser, a simpleton," as a lemon. Another possibility is that the term originated from British pool hall slang, where a ‘lemon game’ was a game played by a hustler. It seems most likely that that the use of a ‘lemon’ as a bad car came from another British slang term from the early 1900’s in which “to hand someone a lemon” was "to pass off a sub-standard article as a good one." (Online Etymology Dictionary).

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Regardless of the where they came from, the terms ‘lemon’ and ‘lemon laws’ are now common in our modern vocabulary, and codified in our laws. In the context of and vehicles, most everyone agrees that buying a lemon new car, does leave one with a sour feeling.