Vehicle Lemon Laws
Anyone buying a new or used car always has that thought in the back of their mind…”I hope this car isn’t a lemon.” If you, or someone you know, was unfortunate enough to get stuck with a “lemon” there are specific laws in Massachusetts to protect the buyer. This blog will provide a general overview of the lemon laws within Massachusetts. Like always, if you are in need of legal representation or counseling, contact Lake Shore Legal, and allow our attorneys to assist you.
New Car Lemon Law
The new car lemon law (found at MGL c. 90 §7N 1/2) applies to both newly purchased vehicles and leased vehicles. The law provides that a car manufacturer must replace or refund the vehicle’s purchase price, or refund all lease payments, if the car manufacturer fails to cure after a reasonable number of attempts, any vehicle nonconformity that appears within the term of protection.
Now let’s define some of the distinct elements of the paragraph above. First, the “term of protection” is within the first year or 15,000 miles, which ever occurs first. Courts have found that the term “nonconformity” means any defect, malfunction, or combination of these that substantially impairs the use, market value or safety of the motor vehicle. Market value is substantially impaired if it is at least 10 percent lower than it would have been but for the nonconformity. And courts have also defined “reasonable number of attempts.” Reasonable number of attempts is defined as either 1. Three attempts by either the dealer or the manufacturer to repair the same nonconformity, or 2. If the car has been out of service for a total of fifteen business days for repair of ANY nonconformity. Also, these fifteen days do not need to be consecutive.
In most circumstances, if you receive a new car lemon vehicle the entity you are dealing with will be the dealer. However, the new car lemon law implies liability for the vehicle on the manufacturer. Therefore, the law gives the manufacturer a final seven business day opportunity to repair the vehicle. The seven-day period begins to run when the manufacturer first knows or should have known that the three repair attempts have been made or the fifteen business days have expired.
The dealer/manufacturer can also raise certain defenses to your liability claim. The most common defenses are: 1. That the alleged vehicle nonconformity does not substantially impair the use, market value, or safety of the vehicle; 2. That a nonconformity is the result of any attempt by the owner to substantially modify the vehicle which was not authorized by the manufacturer; and 3. That the vehicle nonconformity is the result of owner negligence, damage caused by accident, vandalism, or an attempt to repair the vehicle by a person other than the manufacturer, its agent or dealer.
New Car Lemon Law Damages
If you can successfully demonstrate that you received a new car lemon, you are likely entitled to damages. Damages will provide you with a replacement vehicle or a full refund of your purchase price plus certain incidental costs. You can reject a replacement vehicle for a refund, but you cannot reject an offer of a refund and instead demand a replacement vehicle. The damage award is considered an all or nothing award. If the vehicle is a lemon, you are entitled to damages. If the car is not considered a lemon, you are not entitled to damages. Therefore, there are no partial lemon law awards.
Used Car Lemon Law
More often than now a lemon vehicle is one that has been purchased as a used vehicle. The used car lemon law (found at MGL c. 89 §7N1/4) requires dealers to provide an express written warranty covering the full cost of repairs of any defect that impairs the vehicle’s safety or use. If the dealer fails to repair the defect within three attempts or if the car is out of service for more than ten days during the warranty period, the dealer MUST accept the return of the vehicle and refund you with its purchase price.
There are certain items that have been further defined concerning a used car lemon. A dealer is defined as someone who has sold four or more used vehicles within the last 12 months. A dealer warranty cannot be waiver. The dealer MUST provide you with a signed, dated, correct copy of the limited used vehicle warranty at the time you purchase the car. Further, a dealer cannot sell a car to a consumer “AS-IS”. The warranty period does not begin to run until the dealer has provided you with the limited used car warranty. The warranty period for a used vehicle is different depending on the number of miles on the vehicle at the time of purchase. If the mileage on the vehicle cannot be determined the warranty period will then be determined based upon the vehicle’s age.
The used car lemon law only covers defects that impair use or safety. Such defects are considered questions of fact, and whether a defect impairs the use or safety is up to the judge or jury to decide. Also, the dealer is entitled to raise similar defenses to those mentioned earlier.
Private Party Sale
The used lemon law also covers private party sales. A private party seller must disclose to a buyer all known defects that would impair the car’s safety or substantially impair its use. If a buyer discovers a defect and can show that the private party seller knew of the defect and failed to disclose the defect, then the buyer can cancel the sale within thirty days of purchase.
Lake Shore Legal
If you have recently purchased a new or used car and think that it’s a lemon, call Lake Shore Legal. Our attorneys can go into greater detail and specificity concerning the above-mentioned laws. There are certain intricacies that must be followed under the lemon laws. Further, both the new car lemon law and the used car lemon law provide that any violation is also a violation of MGL c. 93A, and our attorneys can explain the provisions of a chapter 93A claim to you in fuller detail.