Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on March 31st, 2008
That was the question before the Easthampton, Massachusetts, city counsel, as it considered whether to dump of the town’s police cruisers. Aparently, this police cruiser suffered the all-too-familiar lemon law tale, spending more time in the shop for repair than chasing the bad guys on the street.
But does Massachusetts Lemon law cover police cruisers? Not really. Massachusetts has some of the strongest consumer protection laws in the country. Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 90, Section 7N1/2, is the state’s new and leased car Lemon Law. In addition, the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act (Massachusetts General Law, chapter 93A), covers unfair or deceptive merchant practices.
However, MA lemon law doesn’t cover vehicles used for business purposes, such as police cruisers. Other warranty laws may apply, but these claims are more far-fetched and more difficult to prove.
Sorry, Easthampton, you’re out of luck on this one.
Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on March 30th, 2008
Most states run lemon law arbitration programs designed to allow for ‘quick’ and ‘easy’ resolution of lemon law disputes between consumers and manufacturers. Massachusetts runs a lemon law arbitration program, as does Connecticut, New Jersey, and, of course, New York. Most of these programs state that they are designed to allow consumers to represent themselves, without the assistance of an attorney. But, as with all things that appear to be too good to be true, these programs aren’t really all they are cracked up to be.
Just look at the New York Lemon Law Arbitration Program’s statistics available online. The program screens applications — that is, to be accepted into the arbitration program, a consumer has to document 4 repairs or 30 days out of service for a vehicle, which are the New York Lemon Law requirements. However, it turns out that only 50% of all cases admitted into the program turn out in favor of a consumer. In contrast, virtually 100% of cases with 4 repairs/30 out-of-service days in which we represent consumers turn in the consumers’ favor.
How come? Well, there is an easy answer. In my experience, most manufacturers will vigorously defend cases in arbitration, sending one or two lawyers to each hearing, usually accompanied by the dealer and dealership service representatives. These folks know the law, know the facts, and can easily out-argue a consumer who shows up on his or her own.
So, if you want to be rid of your lemon car, the lesson is clear - avoid going without a lawyer to state-run arbitration at all costs
Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on March 29th, 2008
NYT reports this morning that Honda settled a major class action lawsuit stemming from inaccuratereadings of Honda Accords’ odometers. The case was brought on behalf 2002-6 model Hondas and Acuras and 2007 Honda Fits bought from April 13, 2002, to Nov. 7, 2006 — a total of about six million vehicles. Basically, the odometers on these vehicles were accruing mileage faster than they should have, pushing cars out of warranty than an odometer that is calibrated correctly. The class-action suit claimed that the odometers on some Acuras and Hondas were overstating the mileage. In the settlement approved by the court last December, Honda agreed to extend the mileage limits on warranties by 5 percent. So a 36,000-mile warranty, for example, will expire at 37,800 miles and a 100,000-mile extended warranty will last until 105,000 miles.
Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on March 27th, 2008
Surprise! Yet another massive recall from a US auto maker. General Motors is warning the owners of 207,542 Buick Regal and Pontiac Grand Prix sedans not to park them in garages because they can catch fire. The automaker said Friday of last week it is recalling the 1997-2003 Buick Regal GS and Grand Prix GDP models with 3.8-liter supercharged V-6 engines.Apparently, during hard braking, oil can leak from the engine onto the exhaust manifold, and fires can start if the oil gets hot enough, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on its website. GM sent letters to the owners on Thursday telling them the vehicles are safe to drive, but they should not be parked in garages or carports until the problem is repaired. The problem has caused 267 vehicle fires and six injuries, five of them minor and one moderate. It also has caused 17 structure fires.
Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on March 25th, 2008
More than once a week, we a call from a New York consumer disappointed that his vehicle’s gas mileage falls short – frequently far short – of the mileage stated on the sticker at the time of purchase. This is an especially hot issue for consumers as gas prices continue to skyrocket. What rights to these consumers have with respect to these newly-acquired gas guzzlers?There are two types of claims two consider: New York Lemon Law and breach of warranty. A consumer complaining of the vehicle’s poor gas mileage could allege a lemon law claim. However, lemon laws in most states, including New York, require proof that the defect substantially affects the use, safety or value of the vehicle. Poor gas mileage is unlikely to rise to the level of a substantial defect.
What about a breach of warranty claim under New York? A warranty can be created by the manufacturer any time it makes an ‘affirmation of fact’; that is, any time the manufacturer makes a statement about the vehicle’s performance or quality. It could be argued that the so-called Monroney Label on the vehicle is just such an affirmation-warranty, which gets breached if the vehicle fails to live up to the promised mileage.
Will this hold up in court, however? Manufacturers will after argue that the poor gas mileage is not an actionable claim. They rely on 49 U.S.C. § 32908(d) (2000), which provides that “a disclosure about fuel economy or estimated annual fuel costs under this section does not establish a warranty under a law of the United States or a State.” Thus, it may be that any claims with respect to a vehicle’s mileage are precluded by Federal Law. Manufacturers also frequently argue that because vehicles are driven under conditions different that the conditions used to calculate fuel efficiency, it is impossible for the consumer to prove that any standard of efficiency has been created, or breached. Few cases have been decided on this issue in New York, but those that have have been unfavorable for consumers.
Therefore, remember that from the legal perspective, gas mileage claims are difficult to prove. Our suggestion to New York vehicle buyers is to research their potential purchases carefully to avoid being stuck with a lemon all too thirsty for fuel!