CLEARWATER, Fla. – A Clearwater car dealership is facing the bitter taste of a Lemon Law lawsuit.
Chloe Jay Roberts, a Miami-based attorney, filed a lawsuit on Jan. 6 with the Pinellas County Circuit Court, claiming that a 2006 BMW 325i she bought from Elite Car Sales for $12,500 has had repeated engine issues, despite the dealership's alleged promises that it would take responsibility for any problems, according to a report on SaintPetersBlog.com.
In her complaint, according to the report, Roberts said that after several breakdowns left her stranded, the dealership agreed to repair the vehicle, but only if she brought it hundreds of miles back to its home office. Roberts' complaint goes on to say that after repeated attempts to repair the vehicle proved unsuccessful, she chose to file the lawsuit against the dealership.
Jeremy Kespohl, an attorney from Morgan and Morgan, told the Florida Record that fortunately for Roberts there is the Florida Lemon Law that covers most new or demonstrator vehicles sold in the state. The law covers defects or conditions that substantially impair the use, value or safety of the vehicle, as long as these defects are reported to the manufacturer or dealer is the first 24 months after the sale. If after several attempts the problem is not resolved, the consumer is entitled to a refund or a replacement vehicle.
In addition, if the vehicle has been back for repairs of the same recurring problem at least three times, there is one final opportunity to repair the vehicle. If that does not resolve the problem, the dealer or manufacturer is liable.
“I see that defense in a lot of cases, but under the law the dealer can attempt to repair the vehicle three times plus one more. If it doesn't work, the vehicle is a lemon,” Kespohl said. “And if the vehicle has been out of action for 30 days or more, it is a lemon. Arguably, even if he dealership does fix the vehicle once and for all, the consumer can still prevail if the repairs take an unreasonable amount of time.”
If the manufacturer does not provide a refund or a replacement vehicle, both parties must agree to enter non-binding arbitration through the Florida attorney-general's office, Kespohl said. However, if the plaintiff is dissatisfied with the result, they may still sue.
“This law gives consumers a lot of options but it is very labor intensive,” Kespohl said.”The result is that it can often be very expensive in terms of legal fees.”
Roberts also has recourse with the federal government under The Magnuson–Moss Warranty Act, which Kespohl said is a popular option for customers seeking redress from vendors because it allows them to reclaim any attorney fees, as long as the decision is in their favor is at least $1.
“In the past, companies would issue a warranty and tell the customer they were out of luck if they tried to file a claim, so people were left with choosing between letting it go and spending thousands of dollars in attorney fees just to get a replacement toaster,” he said. “Magnuson-Moss gives these people some kind of recourse.”