In November of 2008, a jury awarded $120,000 to Todd Van Natta, a 46-year-old
plumber from Minocqua, Wisconsin, in a suit against General Motors. Van
Natta had claimed that the Chevrolet Silverado pickup he had purchased
new in 2005 was a “lemon” with severely faulty steering.
Although Van Natta certainly won in the end, and it only took an hour for
the jury to deliberate and make the substantial award, he had been fighting
for three years to get to that point. The fact that the case had to go
all the way to trial is an indication of the “wall of problems”
auto manufacturers can throw up to try and deter consumers from pursuing
their legal rights as regards lemons. Van Netta began complaining to the
dealership and manufacturer in 2005, just after he purchased the truck
and found it often difficult to maneuver. After four failed repair attempts,
he was informed by Chevrolet that the problem was “normal”
and that nothing could be done for it. It finally took the retaining of
a lawyer and a lawsuit for him to be availed of his rights under the law.
If Van Natta had retained an attorney early on, much of his grief could
have been avoided and it would likely have meant months instead of years
to obtain a result.
The fact that the manufacturer was deliberately stalling became manifest
when it was revealed during the course of the trial that GM knew all about
the problem. This is usually the case, according to leading
California Lemon Law attorney Norman F. Taylor—and a prime reason to retain an experienced
Lemon Law attorney from the outset of a lemon car issue. “Most of
the time, the manufacturer and its dealerships know all about the defective
condition in the vehicle,” Taylor said. “In all likelihood,
the defect was manufactured into the vehicle through engineering error,
poor quality parts, inadequate quality control, deficient manufacturing
procedures, or simply the statistics of manufacturing millions of vehicles.”
In his research in the handling of thousands of Lemon Law cases, Taylor
ran across this actual quote from a service manager at a large automobile
dealership: “If you can’t fix their car, fix their head.”
This quote reflects the philosophy that some dealers and manufacturers
utilize when dealing with complaining customers. As happened with Van
Natta, they will repeatedly tell you that no problem can be found in an
effort to make you go away. “This runaround is mental and financial
torture,” said Taylor. “It can take many months, even years.
It consumes incredible amounts of wasted time and costs that you did not
anticipate and can probably ill afford.”
Taylor knows of what he speaks. He has been a lemon law specialist since
1987, and he and his firm, Norman F. Taylor and Associates, have handled
over 8,000 cases for consumers with a 98 percent success rate. 95 percent
of the firm’s cases are settled without going to trial.
Hopefully there will come a time in the future when manufacturers and dealers
will simply own up to their faults and treat customers with the respect
they deserve. Until then, it well behooves anyone who thinks they might
have purchased a “lemon” to contact a lemon law attorney immediately.