New York Consumer’s Lemon Law Case for Faulty Switch

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on June 30th, 2008

From time to time we get emails from consumers that are interesting because answering them affects a lot of people, so I decided to share my answers with all the readers.

CONSUMER QUESITON: I own a 2002 Ford Escape. In 2006 it caught on fire after being parked for 18 hours. I’m sure that you have heard this story before but this one is unique. Ford told me to contact the main office in Detroit. I did. They had me contact the dealer in which i purchased BOTH my Escapes. The fire was caused by a faulty cruise control. West-Herr Ford of Hamburg N. Y. came and towed my Escape to their collision shop. They called me up and said they misplaced my keys, so I gave them my spare set.  Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months. They finally said that my insurance should pay for it.  My insurance blamed Ford. Ford said that I could pick my truck up but if I did it would be out of their hands, so of course I did not pick it up.

Finally 1 year later Ford covered the faulty part and “fixed” my truck. I have brought it back 4 to 5 times for problems. They would temporarily fix it and give it back. While my truck sat at their collision shop for a year, my warranty ran out. I lost a whole year. Now they say we can fix it for an “AT COST” price. They called me in to an executive meeting and tried to say they can give me a deal on a new truck. My truck according to them needs $700.00 to be fixed and inspected, but their just trying to sell me a new vehicle. They claim responsibility but they don’t want to fix it. I’m not even asking for the year warranty that I lost, I’m just asking to have my truck put back into the condition it was in before their faulty part caused the fire. It hasn’t been the same since. I am not rich. My wife and I have two children under the age of three, and I will not stand by and be taken by a Billion dollar company. I will do whatever I am legally able to do. I was given a voice and you can bet Ill use it. This will not go away unt! il they fix it and make it right. You should have been at the meeting to hear the smoke they tried to blow, it was like they were the victims. Can you please advise me on my rights. Thank You. L.Hill

LEMON LAWYER’S ANSWER: I’m sorry to hear about your situation, but it’s far from common. I’ve even written in this blog about cars going up in flames on their own, and about Ford’s faulty cruise control switches. Your case is a basic breach of written warranty claim against Ford based on the Magnuson Moss Act.  The law would allow you to collect actual as well as incidental damages, such as the cost of replacement vehicles while your Ford was in repair.

New York Lemon Law Covers Ad Ons

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on June 29th, 2008

Is a manufacturer who agrees to repurchase a lemon car under New York Lemon Law liable for the cost of ‘ad ons’ purchased by the consumer?  That was the question facing the Rockland County Supreme Court in Little v. Daimler Chrysler.

This isn’t an insiginificant issue for consumers – in one recent case, our client had purchased $40k worth of ad ons for his car, only to find himself owning a well-decorated lemon.

 In Little, after the vehicle was repurchased, the buyer sued for the cost of the pick-up truck cap “Dodge” splash guards, “Dodge” bedliner kit, “Westin” step bars.  The Court held that in order to make the Plaintiff whole, he must be refunded the additional add-ons which could reasonably be contemplated by the Defendant in the ordinary use of this type of vehicle. The Court granted the Plaintiff a judgment in the amount $1,893.44.

The lesson here is clear — in a NY lemon law repurchase, the consumer must be refunded all monies necessary to put the consumer where he/she would have been had the car never been bought.

New Jersey Lemon Law Leveraged to Convince GM to Buy Back Lemon

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

New Jersey Lemon Laws have teeth, but sometimes car manufacturers bite back. This was a case for one of our clients, who had a 2008 Buick Lucerne with repeated stability control malfunctions.According to J.D. Power and Associates, GM’s 2008 Buick Lucerne gets an almost perfect score in “Overall Quality Mechanical” and a perfect score in “Powertrain Quality Mechanical.” Our client’s experience was anything but perfect.

At the outset, GM didn’t think that the inoperability of the stability control system was significant. Yet the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that such control systems can cut crashes by 35 percent, and other studies have demonstrated that 10,000 traffic fatalities could be avoided each year if every vehicle had a stability control system. Indeed, the Administrator of the NHTSA testified before Congress that such systems “could be the greatest safety innovation since the safety belt.”

Ultimately, it took us five months to get GM to see the light. Thanks to NJ Lemon Law, the manufacturer finally agreed that the malfunctions were serious enough to warrant a buyback. The result? Our client received a refund for his down payment and for all of his car payments.

Is the Prius the First Hybrid Lemon Car?

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on June 23rd, 2008

Joel over at The Car Blog notes that Toyota has sold over 1 million of their gas/electric hybrid Prius model. Toyota estimates that the Prius has saved about 4.5 million tons of CO2 emissions (as compared to comparable gas-powered vehicles). 

Joel, the Prius may be helping the environment but some Prius owners are sitting out on the sidelines. Complaints filed by consumers with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration indicate that owners of the 2008 Prius have had problems ranging from the minor (interior lighting issues) to the potentially fatal (airbags not deploying). We, too, have gotten our share of Prius calls.

So while Toyota is indisputably helping the environment and consumers’ pocket books, one can’t help but take a wait and see approach on whether its technology is reliable in the long term.

New York Lemon Law For RV – Notice Required!

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on June 19th, 2008

Many lemon laws and warranty laws, including those in New York,  require consumers to send formal notices to the manufacturer demanding relief.   This notice requirement is particularly relevant in New York Lemon Law and breach of warranty claims for recreational vehicles.

A recent Appellate case of Lindsay v. Colton highlights this point for consumers. In that case, Plaintiff sued Fleetwood, the manufacturer, and Colton Auto, Inc., the selling dealer, for claims dealing with non-conformities in the vehicle.  Plaintiff’s strongest claim against Fleetwood was under New York Lemon Law (General Business Law § 198-a), which provides for a refund of the full purchase price, payments, taxes and attorneys fees.  However, Section 198-a[n] of that law, which applies to RVs, requires the consumer to notify the manufacturer by certified mail once the vehicle has been in repair 3 times or in the shop for a total of 20 days in the first 18,000/2 years since purchase. 

Failing to send this notice was vitiated the consumer’s lemon law claim.  The trial court dismissed the lemon law claim, and the Appellate Court upheld the dismissal. The remaining claims fell by the wayside as well.  The lesson of this case is clear – consumers must be extremely careful to comply with the technical requirements imposed on them by lemon law statutes.