Thank you for visiting. Please feel free to post questions or comments concerning "lemon law" or other consumer law issues. In this entry, I'll answer some of the more frequently asked questions that I've received about "lemon law" lately. While almost all states now have "lemon laws" and consumer protection acts (sometimes called "unfair trade practice acts"), not all state laws are uniform. Also, even federal laws that apply across the country may be interpreted differently from circuit to circuit. Thus, this blog is not intended to provide legal advice or to be a substitute for individual legal analysis. If you have a legal concern, you should consult an attorney in your locality.
Q What kinds of vehicles are covered by Michigan's "lemon law"?
A. Any new passenger vehicle that is either purchased or leased in Michigan or that is purchased or leased by a Michigan resident. Cars, trucks and vans are generally covered, for example, while motor homes and recreational vehicles are not. Here is a link to the definitions under Michigan's lemon law: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(qrkews55yghly045bvpyltjg))/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=mcl-257-1401&queryid=20967575&highlight=new%20AND%20vehicle%20AND%20warranty%20AND%20warranty
Q Am I out of luck if my vehicle is used or is otherwise outside the "lemon law"?
A. Not necessarily. Many vehicles not covered under the "lemon law" are still covered under other consumer laws, such as the Uniform Commercial Code, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. Thus, there may be help for consumers who have purchased a "lemon" motor home, motorcycle, boat, snowmobile or ATV. (For a more complete explanation, please visit my website, http://www.lemonlawlawyers.com/, and click on "Lemon Law 101.")
Q What makes a "lemon" a lemon?
A. Under the lemon law, a "lemon" is a vehicle that has been through 4 or more unsuccessful repair attempts for the same problem, or has accumulated 30 days in the shop during the first year of ownership. Even under the "4 times" standard, the problem must be reported to the manufacturer or the manufacturer's authorized dealer within the first year of ownership. Here is a link to this portion of Michigan's lemon law: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(qrkews55yghly045bvpyltjg))/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectName=mcl-257-1402&relation=next&queryid=20967575&highlight=new%20AND%20vehicle%20AND%20warranty%20AND%20warranty
Q How do I protect my rights under the "lemon law"?
A. Once the vehicle has been in the shop 3 times for the same problem, or has accumulated 25 days, you'll need to send a "last chance" letter to the manufacturer by certified mail, return receipt requested. The manufacturer should then contact you to direct you to a "reasonably accessible" repair facility. Once the vehicle is at the repair facility, the manufacturer has 5 business days to get the vehicle fixed. If the repairs are still unsuccessful, it is presumed under the law that the vehicle is a "lemon." Caution: Never relinquish your original documents -- always send copies -- and be sure to keep a copy of any correspondence that you send or receive, including the receipts for certified mail return service.
Q. What am I entitled to if I prove I have a lemon?
A. Under the law, the manufacturer is required to refund your money (less a reasonable offset for use based on a statutory formula) or replace the vehicle with a comparable new vehicle acceptable to you. If you have to hire a lawyer to enforce your rights and your lawyers wins the case, the manufacturer is required to pay your costs and attorney fees.
Q What if my vehicle has a serious problem, such as a premature engine or transmission failure, but has not been in the shop 4 times or 30 days or more?
A. Such problems understandably cause many consumers to lose faith in the vehicle. This is known in legal circles as the "shaken faith doctrine." Even if your vehicle does not meet the "lemon law" criteria, you may still have the right to recover damages or have your vehicle bought back at the seller's or manufacturer's expense.
NEXT TIME: In addition to answering posted questions, I'll cover some of the "myths" dealers, manufacturers and finance companies hope you'll believe.