Requirements under the New York Lemon Law
1. Number of Repairs: The New York lemon law requires (1) the same nonconformity, or condition has been subject to repair four or more times by the manufacturer or its dealers within the first 18,000 miles of operation or two years following delivery. These issues arise.
A. Can you bring a claim beyond the mileage limits of the statute? The lemon law speaks of a presumption; can you file a claim beyond the statutory limits but not use the presumption? You can file a claim on other grounds – breach of warranty – without meeting the mileage limits.
B. What is the “Same Problem”? Four repairs of the same problems is required. Clever manufacturers will argue that a condition involves two or three different problems so that the same problems was not repaired four times.
2. Seriousness: The problem must substantially impair the use, value, or safety of the vehicle.
3. Damages Permitted: The statute speaks of a repurchase. The statute is not clear about whether attorney’s fees are recoverable in an attorney general arbitration. It appears that that other damages are not allowed such as loss of time from work, punitive damages, or mental injury. A consumer may choose to file a claim under other laws to assert those types of claims.
4. Mileage Offset: An offset for miles over 12,000 is provided in the lemon law. The formula is “purchase price x mileage over 12,000 divided by 100,000”. Note that in a settlement, consumers may agree to a different formula to resolve the matter.
5. Presumption: While the statute talks of a presumption, frequently that means little and the consumer has the burden of proof to show the necessary number of repairs and the seriousness of the problem.
6. Forum: Many consumers utilize the attorney general arbitration forum. A consumer may also file a claim in court.
Typical Manufacturer Defenses Under the New York Lemon Law
Consumers do not win every case and skillful manufacturers may succeed with various defenses. Manufacturers’ representatives may handle lemon law defenses on an ongoing basis, perhaps dealing with 40 to 50 cases per year, and an experienced representative familiar with the workings and specifications of the vehicle may be quite skillful in minimizing a problem and defeating a claim. Here are some typical defenses.
1. Not the Same Problem: Manufacturer sometimes presents technical arguments suggesting there are two or more conditions present on a series of repairs, rather than the same problem occurring 4 times.
2. The Problem has been Corrected: There has been ongoing discussion about whether a claim can be presented if the problem was corrected. Manufacturer sometimes argue the problem has been or occasionally can be corrected.
3. The Car is Working within Specifications: Lemon laws are subjective processes; the claim must be objectively shown. Manufacturers sometimes present detailed specifications, usually unknown to consumers, and explain how the car is working within those, even those a problem is claimed. Frequently the specifications do not encompass the specific problem.
4. Owner Abuse or Modification: As soon as it is learned that the owner put in a radio, did an oil change, or changed the vehicle in any way, a manufacturer may attribute subsequent problems to that.
The Law Office of Howard Gutman has been bringing lemon law cases in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. If you think your vehicle is a “lemon” or are otherwise having problems with your car, call (973) 598-1980 for a free consultation on your claim.