1 I. Statement of the Research Lemon Law is a term given to a body of law that protects the buyers of new cars from serious defects which persist despite repeated repair. Lemon law claims are placed against the manufacturer of a vehicle, not the dealership that sold you the defective vehicle. Typically, a vehicle qualifies as a lemon when it has a defect that substantially affects its use, safety, or value. There must have been repeated, unsuccessful efforts to repair the same defect before lemon laws apply. In most states, the number of attempts required is three to four. In some states, however, the failure to fix a serious problem on the first attempt may trigger the lemon law. Repair attempts must take place within a warranty period, defined by statute, and will not always coincide with the manufacturer s warranty. Keep in mind that lemon laws refer to recurring problems, not a vehicle which has dozens of different problems. If the defect is not remedied within the specified number of opportunities, the buyer is entitled to a new vehicle, replacement of defective parts, or return of all consideration paid.
2 II. Significance of the Research Every person has the right to be informed of legal actions available against the manufacturer if a vehicle cannot be fixed to conform to the warranty after a reasonable number of repair attempts. Lemon laws contain eligibility requirements, notice requirements, and also set out specific remedies that a consumer may recover. Purchasers in the past were not satisfied with the state and federal laws in place to protect vehicle owners; thus, the enactment of lemon laws. Historically, lemon laws were in place to protect automobile owners only. Today, depending on the state, you may be eligible for lemon law protection if you lease a vehicle, as opposed to buying it. While most states protect only purchasers of new vehicles, a number of states have passed lemon law protections that apply to used vehicles. In most states, motorcycle purchases are not covered. Similarly, the non residential portion of recreation vehicles is not typically covered under the lemon law. You spend a small fortune on a new vehicle. For most, lemon law rights are far greater than you think. Dekelaita v. Nissan Motor Corp. Decided: 9/29/03 (Appellate Court) 2000 Nissan Maxima The Dekelaitas leased their new 2000 Maxima SE and were confronted with numerous engine and brake problems which could not be repaired even after many attempts. They filed a lemon law claim against Nissan Motor Corporation and the case was dismissed by the Cook County Circuit Court in January Plaintiff s appealed; Appellate Court overturned Circuit Court and allowed the case to proceed. This was a significant victory for the consumers who lease their vehicles as prior legal decisions did not guarantee the vehicle lessee the same lemon law rights as a purchaser.
3 III. Literature Review Lemon laws, in some sense, are remedies for breach of sales and lease contracts. However, if the defects with your vehicle do not meet the requirements of the lemon law, there may be claims under other state and federal laws that protect owners of new or used vehicles. First, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty act, which is a Federal Law that protects buyers of any product which costs more than $25 and comes with an express written warranty. This law applies to any product that you buy that does not perform as advertised. Secondly, the Uniform Commercial Code, or UCC, which has been enacted in all 50 states and some of the territories of the United States. The UCC is the primary source of law in all contracts dealing with the sale of products. Then, there is the Tender, Acceptance, Rejection, Revocation, or TARR, which applies to different aspects of the consumer s relationship with the purchased goods.
4 IV. Conceptual Framework Main Body of Paper Lemon laws vary from state to state. Some basic differences include coverage of motorcycles, used vehicles, and recreational vehicles. There are also differences such as whether the vehicle is purchased or leased. There are, however, some basic guidelines that they do share including: 1. The laws define what a lemon car is and require that the manufacturer, not the dealership, takes care of the defects. If a number of attempts have been made to repair a defect that significantly impairs the use, value or safety of a vehicle and the vehicle continues to have this defect, the vehicle is considered to be a lemon. 2. Most statutes set up a warranty rights period of either 12 to 24 months or 12,000 to 24,000 miles. The defect must occur sometime during this timeframe. 3. Many state laws contain specific guidelines as to what constitutes a sufficient number of attempts to repair, and whether these attempts entitle the consumer to a refund or replacement. 4. Lemon laws allow an offset for use of the vehicle by the consumer. Often, a reduction in the consumer s purchase price return is used in relation to the number of miles the owner had put on the vehicle. 5. Approximately one half of the lemon laws allow the consumer to recover attorney s fees in his/her action. Those states that do allow attorney s fees provide for an increased likelihood of success and representation in warranty disputes.
5 V. Analysis and Conclusion Upon completion of research, I have concluded that the Lemon Laws from state-to-state differ in many regards including whether or not the vehicle is purchase or leased, and new or used. I would like to see the development of a Vehicle Owner s Bill of Rights, possibly named Lemon-Aid. In this Bill of Rights, the playing field would be equal among all states, where consumers would have equal protection regardless of where the vehicle was purchased. The Bill would state that the manufacturer would be given the opportunity to correct the situation first. If a resolution could not be reached, there would be an independent arbitration panel, such as the Better Business Bureau, that would handle the lemon law dispute. These independent arbitration services would be required to meet state and/or federal standards of impartiality.