Often times, when our office files a lawsuit against a car manufacturer (such as Chrysler, Ford, or General Motors) and/or dealerships; we cite to both state and federal lemon laws. Both laws provide consumers with limited protection and recourse against the wrongdoer. The federal lemon law applies to all 50 states and the District of Columbia; while the Texas lemon law only applies to vehicles that generally has been purchased in the state of Texas.
One key difference between the federal Magnuson Moss Act and the Texas Lemon Law (found in the Texas Occupations Code and Texas Transportation Code) is the attorney fee shifting provision.
The federal law allows the prevailing consumer’s attorney to recover attorney fees and costs from the defendant (vehicle manufacturer/dealer). In other words, if your new car, truck, boat, motorhome, or recreational vehicle fails you multiple times and you win or settle your case, then manufacturers (such as Honda, Chrysler, Toyota, Kia, Coachmen, Gulfstream, Newmar, or Vogue) will have to pay for your attorney fees.
The attorney fee shifting provision of the Texas Lemon Law is slightly different and more cumbersome against the consumer. The consumer must partake in a judicial hearing. The only time that the manufacturer or dealership is required to pay for the consumer’s attorney fees is if the manufacturer/dealer is represented by the attorney at the hearing. Manufacturers circumvent this loophole by never allowing their attorneys to go to these hearings. Instead, they send vehicle experts with legal background and experience to these hearings. These legal experts often time attend so many hearings through the years that even the administrative judge who is in charge of the hearing know them by name and background.
Why the Texas legislature did not consider this potential bias against the consumer when they wrote the Texas lemon law is beyond me? Or, perhaps Texas legislature did consider this and gave in to the heavy annual lobbying and campaign contributions of these large manufacturers — who knows…