Overcoming Dealer 'Wall of Problems' in Pursuing a Lemon Law Case

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.

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