Of all of the consumer protection laws on the books, Connecticut’s Lemon Law was the first of its kind. It was the first Lemon Law enacted in the United States, and paved the way for every other state (and the District of Columbia) to pass their own Lemon Laws.
In the early 1980s, President Ronald Reagan's policy of deregulation left consumers subject to fraud and other abuses by automobile manufacturers. Connecticut legislators determined that the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 and Uniform Commercial Codes did not provide sufficient relief for lemon car owners. In 1980, California attempted to pass a Lemon Law, but the automobile dealers and manufacturers thwarted the bill's passage. John J. Woodcock III, a relatively new member of the Connecticut State Legislature, initiated similar legislation in Connecticut based on cases he handled in his private law practice. He noticed an increase in cases concerning poorly made vehicles. He studied case law and noticed that consumers had no legal recourse for their grievances. With a copy of the proposed California legislation in hand, he went to work building support among his colleagues.
Signed on June 4, 1982, “Lemon Law” is a nickname for Connecticut General Statute Chapter 743b, “Automotive Warranties.” It allows people who buy lemon vehicles to return them to the manufacturer or receive a replacement vehicle.
While Representative Woodcock was instrumental in shepherding the bill into law, the experiences of Dan Brochu of New London smoothed the way. According to Consumer Reports, in 1980 Brochu "paid $6,500 for an Oldsmobile Omega that, he said 'turned out to be a classic lemon.'" Water pooled inside, the electrical system failed, the paint peeled, and the manual transmission slipped. The car was in the dealer's shop for repairs 135 days over an 18-month period. When Brochu took his protest to the State Capitol, he was accompanied by another dissatisfied owner, Thomas F. Ziemba. According to Newsweek, Ziemba flew his Cessna over the building, trailing a banner that read, "My '82 Chevy is one reason Conn. needs a lemon law."
In May 1984, another law established an arbitration procedure within the Department of Consumer Protection. Over the years, the state’s Automobile Dispute Arbitration Program has returned over $60 million in refunds and replacement automobiles to consumers.