Lemon Law Term Paper

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Lemon Laws in New York State

The history of the development of the lemon laws in the United States is one that is full of frustrations as well as irony. Back in 1979, a reserved poetry teacher from California by the name of Rosemary Shahan brought her car in for repairs after being in an accident. She was promised the quick a speedy return of her vehicle. Three months later the car was still at the mechanics with no end in sight. Finally having had enough she began to picket the dealership, which went on for five months. She was harassed by the mechanics on the job and had to put up with rude gestures and constant harassment. Her picketing however caught the eye of the media and create an overwhelming outcry from citizens across the country, having found themselves frustrated and helpless at their own dealerships. The citizen action team was born that began to create the legislation for the first lemon laws in the country. Rosemary Shahan became the head of the group known as CARS, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. California became one of the first states to enact Lemon Laws in 1982 and now all 50 states have some version of lemon laws to help protect the consumer in times of woe with their vehicles. What is the irony of the story? Rosemary Shahan lived in Lemon Grove, California. (Lemon Law, 2006)

New York States lemon law provides consumers with a legal remedy for manufacturing defects in the workmanship of the vehicle that make it impossible for the dealership or any compete mechanic to successfully repair in a reasonable amount of time. Specifically:

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If your car does not conform to the terms of the written warranty and the manufacturer or its authorized dealer is unable to repair the car after a reasonable number of attempts during the first 18,000 miles or two years, whichever comes first, you may be entitled to a full refund or a comparable replacement car. (New York's New, 2007)

The Lemon Law in New York State also provides for full disclosure on the history of any used vehicle purchased, this has been a more difficult complaint to assess:

Term Paper on Lemon Law Assignment

Fueled by excessive consumer complaints, 56 dealerships across the state of New York were recently cited by the attorney general for noncompliance with key provisions of the New York Lemon Law. This law, which requires car dealers to disclose an automobile's problematic history, provides legal remedies to consumers who are buyers or lessees of new and used cars that turn out to be sour deals. The law also requires dealers to notify the state Department of Motor Vehicles following the return of a lemon so that the title can be branded with a warning to prospective buyers. Said warning indicates that the vehicle did not conform to the manufacturer's warranty. (Morrer, 2003, p.6)

Consumers have a right to know if the car they're purchasing has a history of problems," says Brad Maione, spokesman for Spitzer. He also added that, "Buying a car is the second largest purchase consumers make, next to purchasing a home, and during these difficult economic times it's important that consumers get a good deal." (Morrer, 2003, p.6)

The facts seem to indicate that this is a mounting problem and needs constant monitoring and supervision not only by government agencies but consumers themselves. Looking at the Table one on the following page we can see an overview for the figures in New York State alone indicating the applications received by region and their percentage as compared state wide. Since new York State enacted its Lemon Laws in 1985 over 26,000 applications have been received. That is an average of approximately 1500 per year. There seems to be a trend to less filing of applications since the 2005 amount is well below the average at 799. This is 53% of the average per year since 1985.

The Office of the Attorney General has reviewed these applications since the inception of the law and specifically broken out the numbers over the last five years:

For the seventeen-year period since enacted, out of all applications only 27% have been rejected. The resulting figure have been further broken down into actual results from the accepted applications:

The purview of the regulations regarding the Lemon Law is continuing to expan and now cover motorcycles as well, "thanks to a bill signed on Monday by Gov. George Pataki that made the extension possible." (Browne, 2003, p. 28) There is further legislation pending regarding powerboats and other large purchase equipment.

Manufacturers have constantly challenged the law claiming that it is unreasonable an unfair:

Consumer protections in the New Car Lemon Law were recently upheld by the New York State Court of Appeals. The court rejected a challenge Dec. 14 brought by automobile manufacturers Daimler Chrysler, General Motors and Saturn to a 2003 change in Lemon Law policy implemented by Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The new policy allows arbitrators to rule in favor of the consumer if it is proven a defect in a vehicle was not repaired after four attempts. Prior to the change, consumers were required to prove the condition continued to exist at the time of the arbitration hearing. (Court Supports, 2006, p. 15A)

However, just because there is legislation protecting consumer rights, the consumer needs to follow the best course of action for the situation involved as the following case example illustrates:

In late 2001,Scott Taylor, the president of an insurance agency in New York City, snagged a great deal on a Chevrolet TrailBlazer. But before the new-car smell had started to fade, things went wrong. The day he drove his SUV off the lot, the air-bag light came on -- a harbinger of bigger problems with the electrical system. Sometimes the dash lit up; other times not. Sometimes the radio worked; other times nothing. And when Taylor drove 50 to 55 mph uphill, the accelerator vibrated. With a scant 672 miles on the odometer, Taylor took his SUV in for repair. That was Nov. 30, 2001. The car was in the shop again in January, February, March and April. By August 2002, he had grown so frustrated that he began driving to the dealership every day.

Finally, Taylor turned to New York State's arbitration program. To win his lemon-law claim, he had to prove that he couldn't drive his vehicle for at least 30 days or that the dealer had tried to fix the same problem four times without success. The process dragged on for months, but Taylor persisted. Thirteen months after he had bought his TrailBlazer, GM refunded his money. In other words, he won. But if the same thing happened again, Taylor says he'd sell the car back to the dealer immediately. "It wasn't worth a year of my life," he says. "Even though I won, I lost." (Bigda & Chattzky, 2004, p.216)

It is often in the consumer's best interest to try and negotiate with the dealership or the manufacturer before taking the case to court. Many people opt to use the Lemon Laws in cases where they may not even be applicable or they have done the supportive work necessary to prove their claim. And even when you are sure you have a case, as Mr. Taylor did above, it still may not be worth it and seeking alternative measure may be advisable.

A current situation in my own family would have benefited from knowing a little more about the laws, but in essence this is one of those instances where the circumstance circumvented that actual use of the Lemon Laws. In 1995 my cousin bought a brand new Jeep Cherokee, Country directly from the dealer ship. One of the reasons he bought it was to take it cross-country in the summer of the following year, which he did. It preformed admirably on the trip and after bringing it back to the dealer for service he was informed that the seal in the rear transfer case had broken and he lost transmission fluid. Hearing that he had traveled cross-country and off road the mechanics wanted to blame his handling of the vehicle for the problem. After going around with the dealership they replace and repaired the problem at no charge.

Six months later the engine was making some strange sound and the gas mileage went through the roof. It seemed as if it had no power and would hesitate when starting from a dead stop. He brought it back to the dealer and was told that the transmission was bad and needed to be replaced. They would do it free of charge but now my cousin was getting suspicious. He looked into the Lemon Law and it seemed he did not have a case since they were apparently unrelated incidents.

Another six moths go by and the car is making a squeaking noise the increases as the car goes faster and decreases as it stops. The mechanics are stumped… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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