Archive for November, 2009

Can Toyota Recall Stave Off Future Lemon Law Claims?

Toyota has taken proactive measures to address safety concerns with a poor combination of floor mats and pedal position causing problems with braking and acceleration. The voluntary recall has been issued by the manufacturer across many models, including the Prius, Camry, Avalon, Tacoma, and Tundra. Reports of sudden acceleration possibly resulting from complications of floor mat jamming have prompted Toyota to issue its most widespread recall ever. A Tennessee family filed a $10 million lawsuit against Toyota from the death of Dustin Ricardo after his 2007 Toyota Camry crashed into a tree from sudden unexpected acceleration. Toyota has issued a floor mat advisory describing the issue.

The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority to force recalls of safety-related defects, but in this case, Toyota has taken the initiative to issue the recalls voluntarily. Differences between Toyota’s and NHTSA perspective on the cause of the defect remain in dispute. Lemon law requires manufacturers to offer a replacement vehicle or refund for defects that significantly impair use, value, or safety of a vehicle. Lemon law claims are constrained by mileage and time limits that differ from state to state. New Jersey’s lemon law allows cars to be classified as lemons after a single failure of a critical safety function such as steering or braking. Pennsylvania’s lemon law requires three repair attempts.

Toyota dealers are still waiting for the complete list of vehicles and VIN numbers affected by the recall and are expecting this information within the next week. Toyota is responsible for notifying dealerships and owners of eligible vehicles and footing the bill for repairs. Owners who have had defects repaired already may qualify for reimbursement.

Toyota needs to address these safety concerns as swiftly and comprehensively as possible. These types of safety defects warrant compensation under the lemon law, and it’s in the best interest of Toyota’s ongoing relationship with their customers to address these issues head on. Any owners of vehicles on Toyota’s recall list should schedule repairs at their earliest convenience.

For owners of vehicles who have already suffered an accident or a loss of use of their vehicle due to a safety defect, recourse may be available under state lemon law guidelines.

Lemon laws can vary greatly from state to state. Anyone affected by a vehicle safety defect should contact a qualified attorney who is experienced handling lemon law cases within the same state that the owner resides in. Safety issues with any vehicle need to be taken seriously. Many lemon law firms offer free lemon law case evaluations and get paid directly from the manufacturer so there is no cost to the vehicle owner.

Car Dealership Faces License Review from Lemon Law and Overstocking Complaints

A car dealership is facing license review due to multiple complaints of poor business practices, including selling vehicles with dangerous mechanical problems and exceeding the number of vehicles allowed on the lot at one time.

Repeated investigations of Griffin Powers’ dealership in Bellingham, MA reported that the dealership was keeping more cars in inventory than its 44-car limit. The owner attributed to the higher number of people selling their vehicles for cash. Powers did have the inventory within his license guidelines during a September 2009 inspection.

Of greater concern though, have been multiple complaints related to serious mechanical problems. One customer who bought a used BMW complained that the front left wheel came off the car on the Interstate only 2 days after purchase. The dealership did not follow through with a reimbursement for repairs and after the car broke down again, the customer gave up on putting more time and money into the vehicle.

Normally business license renewals are straightforward and without issue. But when Powers met with the board in charge of license renewals, the number of complaints exceeded other businesses according to board Chairwoman Dawn Davies. While some of the complaints were addressed at the meeting, the board exercised their option to postpone their decision on the license renewal until December. Several receipts were presented for buy backs for customers requesting to return their vehicle under the lemon law, but many other complaints were lacking proof of resolution.

Under most state lemon laws, car dealerships are required to make it clear when a vehicle has been purchased as a buy back, or lemon. An audit in Massachusetts recently revealed a high percentage of dealerships who failed to put notices on vehicles that were buy backs. A recent Wisconsin dealership was forced to pay $93,000 to compensate consumers who had bought buyback vehicles without being forewarned. Some states have increased consumer protection, allow a vehicle to be deemed a lemon after only a single incident involving a life-threatening failure of a steering or braking system. New Jersey Lemon Law is one example of improvements in consumer protection.

Many states are realizing that protecting their consumers is especially important in this economy, when consumers have less to spend and are putting more at risk for large, important purchases. Besides a house, a vehicle can be the most expensive purchase most people make. You have to know you’re protected when things go wrong. If you are worried about the safety of a vehicle you recently purchased, don’t wait; contact an experienced lemon law attorney in your state.

Oklahoma Joins New Jersey in Better Lemon Law Protection for Consumers

Starting this month, Oklahoma consumers will have better, clearer options if they find themselves owning a lemon under Senate Bill 812. The new law can be credited to the efforts of Angie Vera, who discovered the complexities and frustrations of the Oklahoma Lemon Law first hand.

The new lemon law specifies a formula that must be used in the calculation of “reasonable usage” fees that are charges that car manufactures can charge the consumer when trying to return a lemon. Prior to the new changes, these fees were arbitrarily left to the manufacturer’s decision.

Like in Massachusetts, Oklahoma cars returned under the lemon law must be specifically labeled as a “Lemon Law Buyback” before the vehicle can be resold, leased, or transferred. Furthermore, the manufacturer must offer the new purchaser of any lemon the same warranty as the original purchaser had, with a 12,000 mile or 12 month limit (whichever comes first). Or, the manufacturer can provide the consumer with a statement explaining why the car was returned. Finally, the new lemon law takes a strong position on any vehicle returned for braking or steering system failures by prohibiting the resale of any vehicle returned for these issues.

These changes echo lemon law improvements in other states. Last month, New Jersey lemon law changes expanded protection for consumers who encounter problems with their new vehicle from 18,000 miles to 24,000 miles. Under the old law, a consumer had to suffer through 3 repair attempts. Now, any unresolved defect that could cause serious injury or death qualifies a car as a lemon after a single attempt.

“Oklahoma has taken important steps to protect the safety and financial stability of their consumers. Manufactures need to get on board with ensuring the safety of their customers if they want to earn their trust and get repeat business”, said leading lemon law attorney David J. Gorberg. “Oklahoma and New Jersey have set great examples of improving lemon law protection and awareness of lemon law rights. We have a lot to thank Angie Vera and other consumers who continue to raise awareness about lemon law protection – especially where safety is concerned.”

Many states fall behind Oklahoma and New Jersey. Pennsylvania lemon law only protects consumers up to 12,000 miles or one year and requires 3 repair attempts before the consumer is entitled to a new car or full refund. These repairs must be performed by an authorized dealer, otherwise the consumer is not protected under the lemon law.

“Lemon laws vary greatly from state to state,” warns Gorberg. “Always contact a qualified lemon law attorney who knows the laws in in your state and how to help you get the best settlement.”

Lemon Law Protection and Awareness Improving in NJ and MA

Some states are tackling lemon law protection for their residents head on. While federal law dictates some standard measures of consumer protection for vehicle buyers, such as an odometer disclosure and a window sticker indicating if a car is being sold as is or with a warranty, each state has very different policies for protecting consumers under the lemon law.

Massachusetts Lemon Laws require the placement of a bright yellow sticker in the window to notify consumers of their lemon law rights. Last week, a recent study by the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation of over 1900 new and used cars for sale at dealerships found many cars missing the required lemon law notification sticker in the window. Of the new cars for sale, 25% were missing the sticker. For used cars, nearly 1/2 were missing the sticker. Only 8 car dealerships of the 73 reviewed were in full compliance of the state lemon law.
“It’s very encouraging to see some states improving protection for consumers with defective vehicles and bringing awareness to dealerships that they need to comply with the lemon laws in their states if they want the trust of their customers”

An improved New Jersey lemon law signed last month expands the protection for consumers who encounter problems with their new vehicle from 18,000 miles to 24,000 miles. Under the old law, a consumer had to wait until the manufacturers made 3 repair attempts. Now, any unresolved defect that could cause serious injury or death can qualify a car as a lemon after only 1 repair attempt.

“It’s very encouraging to see some states improving protection for consumers with defective vehicles and bringing awareness to dealerships that they need to comply with the lemon laws in their states if they want the trust of their customers”, said leading lemon law attorney David J. Gorberg. “We’d like to see other states following the example of New Jersey and Massachusetts by stepping up lemon law protection and awareness of lemon law rights.”

Some states have a longer way to go. Pennsylvania lemon law ranks lower in lemon law protection than many states, with protection only up to 12,000 miles or one year. Pennsylvania requires 3 repair attempts before the consumer is entitled to a new car or full refund. These repairs must be performed by an authorized dealer, otherwise the consumer is not covered.

In states with active state agencies and consumer groups, dealerships are coming to realize that their compliance with state lemon laws could earn or lose the trust of their customers. This direct translation to the bottom line is good news for the driver looking for reliability and a good response when things go wrong.

David J. Gorberg & Associates, The Lemon Law Attorneys, has arbitrated, settled and litigated thousands of lemon law claims to date, throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, recovering millions of dollars for it’s clients.

Pennsylvania Lemon Law – 10 Facts Car Owners Should Know

In order to better understand the Pennsylvania Lemon Law we have listed the most important facts which every Pennsylvania new car owner should know.

1. The Pennsylvania Lemon Law applies to all new vehicles purchased in the state, or originally registered in the state. The Pennsylvania Lemon law does not apply to used cars.

2. Only cars used for personal use are covered under the The Pennsylvania Lemon Law. Cars which are primarily used for business or commercial use are not covered under the Pennsylvania Lemon Law.

3. Motorcycles, trailers, campers, and ATV’s are not covered under the Pennsylvania Lemon Law.

4. The Pennsylvania lemon law provides the manufacturer 3 repair attempts to correct a defect or condition that substantially impairs the use value or safety of the car.
If the manufacturer fails to correct a defect in 3 repair attempts, then the consumer is entitled to a new car or full refund.

5. The owner of a lemon new car must bring the defective car into the dealer for repair at least one time within the first year of purchase or 12,000 miles whichever comes first.

6. Under Pennsylvania Lemon Law, you must bring your car for repair to an authorized dealer. Vehicles, which are repaired at non authorized dealers are not covered by the Pennsylvania Lemon Law.

7. The Pennsylvania Lemon Law permits the consumer to hold the manufacturer responsible for towing charges.

8. Pennsylvania Lemon Law does not apply to defects resulting from abuse or the misuse of the vehicle.

9. The Pennsylvania Lemon Law does not allow a manufacturer or dealer to sell a vehicle that was repurchased as a lemon unless the dealer obtains a signed written acknowledgement from the buyer.

10. The Pennsylvania Lemon Law mandates that all attorney fees shall be paid by the manufacturer if the consumer prevails on his or her lemon law claim.