Bad Maryland Lemon Law Decision For Consumers

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on May 31st, 2008

Maryland has been an unfriendly ground for lemon law suits. The Appeals Court has now severely limited the rights of consumers in that state in lemon law cases. 

In Laing v. Volkswagen of America, the consumer filed a lawsuit under the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act and Maryland’s lemon law against VW.  The plaintiff claimed that the vehicle was defective, and that the manufacturer failed to repair the defects within a reasonable number of times or within a reasonable number of attempts. However, the plaintiff didn’t proffer any expert evidence to show the existence of the defect, and, because of that, the trial court ruled in the defendant’s favor.  The appeals court upheld the decision, essentially holding that a consumer in Maryland must proffer expert evidence to establish the existence of the relevant defect or defects.

Is this a bad decision for consumers? Yes. But I wonder if this was just simply a bad case. As I read the decision, there really wasn’t anything much wrong with the vehicle. So the court required the consumer to prove what it is he was complaining about.   It seems logical, but still less than favorable to consumer plaintiffs.


Connecticut Lemon Law for Safety Defects

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on May 27th, 2008

pinton.bmpFew lawyers or consumers know this, but Connecticut’s lemon law is one of the most favorable in the nation when it comes to safety defects.  And that’s not just because Ralph Nader lived here when he wrote the famous Unsafe at Any Speed about the fire-prone Ford Pinto.

Under most states’ lemon laws, including Connecticut, a vehicle is presumed to be a lemon if the same problem isn’t repaired after 4 attempts or if the lemon car spends 30 days out of service in the first 24,000/2 years since purchase. However, under CT lemon law, for safety related problems, only 2 repair attempts are required. 

Here’s the quote from the Section 42-179, which is the Connecticut New Car Lemon Law: 

(f) If a motor vehicle has a nonconformity which results in a condition which is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle is driven, it shall be presumed that a reasonable number of attempts have been undertaken to conform such vehicle to the applicable express warranties if the nonconformity has been subject to repair at least twice by the manufacturer or its agents or authorized dealers within the express warranty term or during the period of one year following the date of the original delivery of the motor vehicle to a consumer, whichever period ends first, but such nonconformity continues to exist. The term of an express warranty and such one-year period shall be extended by any period of time during which repair services are not available to the consumer because of war, invasion, strike or fire, flood or other natural disaster.

So, if the problems with your new car concern vehicle safety, for Connecticut cases, only 2 repair attempts are required, not 4.

New York Lemon Law Excludes Dealer Alterations

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on May 24th, 2008

I’ve written recently about exclusions under NY lemon law for aftermarket items consumers install on their vehicles.  But what about dealer-installed items such as sunroofs, radios, alarms; what if something goes wrong with them?

The answer under New York Lemon Law is quite clear – if the manufacturer’s warranty excludes dealer-installed items, problems associated with them aren’t covered by the lemon law. Period.  This was the holding in a recent Appellate Division case of In the Matter of the Arbitration between General Motors Nematullah Sheikh, in which the buyer bought a leaking conversion van.  The consumer won at the arbitration level and at the lower trial court, but eventually lost on appeal.

The court basically that the leak was caused by the extensive conversion of the vehicle by the dealer, which was excluded from the warranty.

On these installations my advise is the same as on other after-market items – don’t do them if you can help it.

Used Car Lemon Law for Philadelphia

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on May 24th, 2008

In an interesting legislative move, last Monday, the Philadelphia City Counsel approved a ‘lemon law’ bill to cover used cars.  If the bill becomes law, anyone buying a used car in the City of Philadelphia could take the vehicle to a licensed mechanic to be checked within 72 hours. If the car is judged to be not roadworthy, the new owner would have the right to have the defect fixed at the dealer’s expense or get a refund.If the dealer refused, the city could suspend or revoke his business license – even if the car was sold ‘as is.  The measure now goes to the full council for a vote, although its likely to be amended before that.

Currently, Pennsylvania’s Lemon Law applies only to new cars. And this bill would only cover the City of Philadelphia, not the whole state. But this is welcome news to thousands of Philly residents stuck with useless lemon vehicles that just don’t work!

Soviet Lemon Cars 101

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on May 22nd, 2008

ziz-110.jpgThis recent post on the Automobilemag blog made me think that readers would enjoy a little international flavor.  According to the post, this ZIZ 110, currently on sale in Finland was Stalin’s transport.

Pirated from Packard’s 180 sedan (but with a dash of ‘48 Chrysler added to the front fenders), this 110 served as Stalin’s chariot for three years, and may be a great example of Joe’s [Stalin's] love for the Packard.

No clue about the reliability of the ZIZ, but I do know that lada-model-1.jpgmost Soviet-made cars were lemons in the true sense of the word, just there was nobody to complain to, nor was there a lemon law.  Here are a couple most notable ones:

Zhiguli (or Lada, it was called) was made in collaboration between Italy and the Soviet Union in the town of Togliatti, named after an Italian communist Palmiro Togliatti. Originally designed as a “people’s car,” this was a Russian remake of the Fiat 124.  Not known for its reliability, these things were constantly being fixed and tinkered with. I drove one on a recent visit back to Russia – it has the feel of a golf cart.


Mozkvich (meaning Moscow car) was first produced in 1929 in Moscow.  Production of this vehicle was rejuvenated after WWII, because after the war,  the Soviet Union brought an entire Opel manufacturing line from Germany.  Moskvitch cars were never meant to be a fashion statement. They were meant as sturdy, reliable on substandard roads and were offered at an affordable price.  They were not know for being reliable but, with the dearth of options people bought them anyway.