Buying a “lemon,” a car with a defect that cannot be repaired,
is often thought to be a problem with used cars. The recent judgment against
Mercedes-Benz USA LLC for $482,000 in damages and legal fees to a Wisconsin
customer, tells a different story. This is believed to be the largest
judgment involving a single car under a state "lemon law," which
protects consumers who are sold junk cars. Wisconsin, along with California,
has one of the strongest lemon law statutes. When a customer buys a car
that does not run, or cannot be repaired, they are entitled to demand
a replacement or refund.
This particular case concerns a 2005 Mercedes-Benz E 320, and it has been
in contention for more than four years. Almost immediately after purchase
the car often would not start. The battery was replaced multiple times,
but the problem continued. After several repair attempts, the dealership
said the problem could not be fixed.
Although Mercedes-Benz acknowledged the car was defective, they dragged
their heels and the customer had to hire a lemon law attorney to get his
refund. Unfortunately, this is not unusual. Dealer and manufacturers tend
to “deflect” the customer—the variety of “tricks”
they can pull include repairing items that do not actually fix the problem,
attempting to convince you that there is actually nothing wrong, “explaining”
that the issue is actually part of how the vehicle runs, or claiming the
customer is somehow at fault.
This “gauntlet” of distractions can actually extend over years
and leave the customer with a non-working vehicle—unless they retain
the services of an experienced lemon law attorney.
The many diversionary tactics dealers and manufacturers use—and we
are very familiar with all of them—can make this a very frustrating
experience for the consumer. It is essential that consumers find protection
in the law. The best thing a consumer can do is persevere, and if necessary,
contact a qualified lemon law attorney to help them get the replacement
or refund they are entitled to by law.