Articles Posted in General Lemon Laws

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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 MagnusonMoss 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In its unpublished decision dated on October 13, 2009, the appellate court sided with Vasquez in stating that Vasquez’s attorney is entitled to “reasonable attorney fees.”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.

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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!

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.