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New York

What is a Lemon Car Under New York Lemon Law?

New York Lemon Law covers new and used passenger vehicles, SUVs, trucks, demonstrators, motor homes, and motorcycles that are purchased or leased in New York. Vehicles covered by New York’s new car Lemon Law must meet four conditions:

  • The vehicle was covered by the manufacturer’s warranty at the time of original delivery; and
  • The vehicle was purchased, leased, or transferred within 18,000 miles or two years from the date of original delivery, whichever comes first; and
  • The vehicle was purchased, leased, or transferred in New York State or is presently registered in New York State; and
  • The vehicle is primarily for personal use (more than 50% of the time).

 In order to be considered a “lemon,” the vehicle must meet the following requirements: 

  • Does not conform to the manufacturer’s express warranty
  • Has substantial defects affecting the use, safety or value of the vehicle
  • Has manufacturer’s defects that occurred during the first two years from the original owner’s delivery date or the first 18,000 miles on the odometer (whichever period ends first)
  • Has been taken in four times for the same problem or if it has been out of service for 30 days due to repairs for one or more problems
  • Cannot have problems associated with any modifications that you made

The New York Appeals Court recently held in DaimlerChrysler Corporation v. Spitzer that you are still entitled to relief under NY Lemon Law if a defect was successfully repaired on or after the fifth repair attempt, or after the vehicle was out of service for 30 days.

Pursuing a NY Lemon Law Claim

Under New York Lemon Law there are two ways to gain relief: go to court or go to arbitration. It is generally in your best interest to have an attorney represent you. After all, vehicle manufacturers have teams of lawyers that do nothing but fight Lemon Law claims. As you consider your options, imagine the difference between going up against a team of lawyers on your own, versus having a Lemon Law attorney speak on your behalf. Also keep in mind that being represented by a Lemon Law attorney won’t cost you a dime if you go to court; the law says that the car manufacturer has to pay your attorney’s fees in successful Lemon Law claims. However, the law does not mandate attorney’s fees in arbitration.

If you choose to go it alone, you either take part in the manufacturer’s arbitration program (though the decision is not binding) or participate in the New York State New Car Lemon Law Arbitration Program. To take part in the state program, you can download a form available through the Attorney General’s website [link to http://www.oag.state.ny.us/complaints/pdfs/cns006_newcar.pdf ] and send the completed form, along with copies of your purchase or lease agreement, all service or work orders, and any correspondence between you and the manufacturer or dealer to state officials.  A word of warning: there is no right to attorney’s fees in New York lemon law arbitrations, so if you decide to hire an attorney to attend the arbitration with you, you will have to pay him out of your own pocket.

The Attorney General’s office will review your application and decide whether or not your claim is accepted for arbitration. If you, your documents will be sent to the New York State Dispute Resolution Association, and you will be asked to pay a $250 fee. This fee will be refunded if the arbitrator rules in your favor.

Once your fee is received, a hearing will be scheduled within 35 days. The Administrator will send a copy of your arbitration request and all of your documents to the manufacturer, the finance company, and (if applicable) the leasing company. The manufacturer has 15 days to respond; any response is sent to you, and you must reply by day 25.

Finally, when you originally fill out your arbitration processing paperwork, you must choose between two different types of arbitration hearings. There is an oral hearing and a documentary hearing. While it is not always the case, the oral hearing often moves at a faster pace than the documentary hearing.

The Arbitration Hearing

An oral hearing is similar to a trial. Both you and a representative from the manufacturer speak before the arbitration panel. Typically, you will speak first. The attorneys for the manufacturer can question you; when the attorneys for the manufacturer speak, you can question them. You should bring your vehicle to the hearing in case the arbitrator wants to ride in it or inspect it.

While the arbitration hearing is less formal than an actual court proceeding, you need to come prepared to present your case. You will need the records that outline all of the work done on your car and all of the diagnosed problems. It is also important that you have your records in chronological order and ready to present to the arbitrator in an organized fashion.

You must prove to the arbitrator that the claims you are making are true. It is absolutely vital that you bring proof of each and every point you plan on making. A “he-said-she-said” argument will never result in a ruling in your favor.

The documentary hearing is not done in person. Instead, you and the manufacturer file paperwork with the state, including a sworn affidavit that goes over your case point by point. You will receive copies of the manufacturers’ statements so that you can respond to them, and those responses will also be sent to the state so that the arbitration panel can review them. The arbitrator makes it decision based on the paperwork submitted; neither side can present oral testimony.

Pursuing Lemon Law Litigation in Court

If you decide to hire a lemon attorney, it’s likely that your case will proceed to court. Here’s the main advantage of going to Court over arbitration – your attorney’s fees will be paid by the manufacturer so you and the manufacturer will be on equal footing.  The litigation process is usually divided into several stages, and your lawyer will do most of the heavy lifting for you.

Pre-Litigation

To avoid the delays and expenses associated with litigation, lawyers usually try to resolve most cases before going to trial. If a consumer doesn’t have an attorney, most manufacturers don’t resolve consumer complaints in the hope that the consumer won’t pursue his or her case. Once you hire a lemon lawyer, however, manufacturers understand that they will ultimately be responsible for your attorney’s fees, and so many settle cases before litigation even begins.

If a Settlement is Not Reached

If no satisfactory settlement is reached, litigation will begin.

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