Picture this: You are having trouble with a new Ford vehicle you recently
purchased. You take it in to the dealership for repairs. Since your car
has to be in the dealership overnight or for a few days, the dealer offers
you a free rental car. They hand you a form to sign for the rental car,
saying something like, “It’s just a standard agreement.”
You sign it and are on your way. Some time later, you realize you own
a defective vehicle—a lemon. You hire an attorney and bring a
lemon law case against Ford. Much to your surprise, they produce as evidence a form,
with your signature on it, releasing them from any liability regarding
defects in your vehicle. It’s that very same form you signed for
that rental car.
If you think this is fiction, think again, for this is exactly what Ford
Motor Company is currently doing.
“When a consumer has their vehicle in a couple times for the same
defect at Ford, they have their dealers offer a rental car while the consumer’s
vehicle is in the shop for repairs, or while it is waiting for parts,”
explained Norman Taylor, leading California Lemon Law attorney. “However,
there is a catch, a nasty one: in exchange for the free rental car, the
consumer has to sign a release, which in theory would bar them from bringing
a lemon law claim later. Would a court uphold such a release? Maybe, maybe
not. And that is the problem.”
Taylor has seen many such tactics in use. He has been a California lemon
law specialist since 1987, and he and his firm, Norman Taylor and Associates,
have handled over 8,000 cases for consumers with a 98 percent success rate.
At a glance, the form is quite misleading, and a bit confusing. At the
top it is labeled, “MUTUAL RELEASE—Ford Motor Company—Alternate
Transportation Assistance.” The form then goes on to release Ford
Motor Company, Ford Credit Company and all associated parties of any and
all claims and damages of any kind or nature. As a consumer, you would
be totally correct in wondering why such language would have anything
to do with a rental car.
For this and many other reasons, it is vitally important that a consumer
carefully inspect any document that he or she is signing. It is well-documented
that dealers and manufacturers will take many actions designed to distract
or deflect a consumer from bringing a lemon law claim—and it’s
apparent that Ford has devised yet another one in this release. If a form
doesn’t make sense, and if it has not been satisfactorily explained
to you, don’t sign it.
If you think you might be driving a lemon, it is best to
contact a qualified California lemon law attorney right away.