Do I Have a Valid Lemon Law Claim?
When people think of buying or leasing a new vehicle, they often fully anticipate the stress of the buying process. After the purchase has been made, however, buyers are often unprepared when their new vehicle doesn’t operate as expected. When this occurs, a new owner must begin the process of attempting to fix the vehicle’s issues at the dealership. But what happens when these issues persist, even after multiple attempts to fix them? Is this new vehicle really a lemon in disguise?
Wisconsin has a Lemon Law which is designed to protect consumers who purchased “lemons” – new vehicles that look great but don’t run as promised. The law provides a distinct remedy for consumers who unwittingly purchase a lemon: a full refund or a new vehicle of comparable quality from the manufacturer. However, the Lemon Law doesn’t apply to all kinds of vehicles and consumers.
To have a valid claim, a consumer must buy or lease a new vehicle from a licensed dealer. The vehicle must be leased or purchased in Wisconsin. Further, only some vehicles are covered within the law, including cars, heavy trucks, motorcycles, and motorhomes. The law does not provide a remedy for semitrailers, mopeds, or pull-behind trailers.
A lemon claim must be filed within 36 months of a vehicle’s first delivery to a consumer. To qualify, a vehicle must have a “defect” or “nonconformity.” To constitute a defect or nonconformity under the Lemon Law, the vehicle’s issue must be, “a condition or defect substantially impairing use, value or safety of a vehicle covered by an express warranty.” It’s also important to note that a vehicle’s issue may still qualify as a nonconformity even if the vehicle is drivable.
Even if you fear your vehicle may be a lemon, you must still allow the dealer, or other manufacturer-licensed repair shop to attempt to fix the issue before filing a Lemon Law claim. A consumer who attempts to repair the vehicle himself and/or presents the vehicle for repair at a repair shop that is not licensed by the vehicle’s manufacturer, disqualifies himself from relief under the Lemon Law. The manufacturer (through an authorized repair facility) must perform reasonable attempts to repair the issue(s) within one year after first delivery to the customer, or before the expiration of the vehicle’s express warranty (whichever comes first).
To qualify as a defect that persists despite a reasonable attempt to repair, the manufacturer must attempt to fix the same defect four times without success, or the vehicle must be out of service for an aggregate of 30 days due to one or more defects. The term “out of service” may include periods when the vehicle does not perform as the manufacturer warrants even though the consumer still uses the vehicle. Even if a vehicle does not meet either criterion, there may still be a Lemon Law claim. If a vehicle is presented for repair during the first year after delivery and the manufacturer fails to repair, the consumer may still have valid claim. The Lemon Law creates an obligation to repair nonconformities occurring during the first year of ownership.
As you can see, successfully navigating Wisconsin’s Lemon Law is a complex and nuanced process. Even the slightest misstep can disqualify you from relief. It is vitally important that you hire a professional to avoid a costly mistake. Contact Kelly & Brand, Attorneys at Law, LLC for all of your Lemon Law questions.