Why the Lemon Laws Exist - For You

Several years ago, Sarah Griffith of Munroeville, Pennsylvania, bought a Chevrolet Trailblazer. Six months after the purchase, the vehicle began behaving dangerously. Driving down the parkway, the car would virtually shut down. Neither the brakes nor accelerator would work. Repeated trips to the dealer for repairs did not correct the problem, and in fact it didn’t solve until she filed suit against General Motors. She ended up getting a replacement vehicle, which has fortunately been performing just fine.

Prior to 1975, Ms. Griffith would not have been so fortunate. Since the 1600s, consumer law had been based in “caveat emptor,” which means “buyer beware.” If a consumer purchased a defective automobile and it didn’t work, there was nothing that could be done except for the owner to attempt to get the vehicle fixed at his or her own expense.

That all began to change with the first lemon law, enacted in California. Under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, enacted in that state in 1970, manufacturers were only entitled to a reasonable number of attempts to repair defective consumer goods; if they were unsuccessful, they would either have to replace the goods or refund the purchase price. This law set the standard for nearly all other lemon laws that followed. In 1975, congress enacted the Magnuson-Moss Warranty-Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act, and other laws soon followed that would protect customers in Ms. Griffith’s position.

In a perfect world, manufacturers of motor vehicles would not attempt to pass off a defective vehicle on a consumer without correcting the problem. But as leading California lemon law attorney Norman Taylor pointed out, “There have always been those who would sell you an ox cart made from rotting wood with wheels shaped like footballs. Without the lemon law, regular consumers were in a David-and-Goliath contest where all the weapons favored Goliath. The lemon law has been the great equalizer; courts can now compel manufacturers to repair or replace defective vehicles, and even order reimbursement of attorney fees.”

In his many years as a consumer activist and lemon law attorney, Taylor has had much occasion to observe these laws in action. He has been a 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.

“A basic problem is that most of the time, the manufacturer and its dealerships know all about a defective condition in a vehicle before the consumer even shows up to get it fixed,” Taylor explained. “We need lemon laws because manufacturers will seemingly bend over backwards to do everything possible to just drive the consumer away so he or she won’t bother them with fixing it or replacing the vehicle.”

The moral: If you think you have purchased a lemon, contact a qualified lemon law attorney right away. They can help guide you to receiving the full benefit of the law.

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