Is Your Lemon Law Case Ripe for Litigation?

Each week I field calls from people that have purchased a defective vehicle.   The caller typically informs me they recently purchased a "lemon" and the vehicle suffers from various mechanical issues. At that point it is important to ask a few basic questions to determine if this is truly a lemon law case.  Oregon's Lemon Law has a very specific definition of vehicles that are protected by its "Lemon Law." 

It is important to note what Oregon's lemon law is. Oregon's Lemon law is comprised of a group of statutes starting at ORS 646A.400 and continuing through ORS 646A.418.   The law basically states that if a new motor vehicle does not conform to the manufacturer's express warranty, and the consumer alerts the manufacturer or the authorized dealer of the nonconformity then the consumer may be entitled to a replacement or a refund, and damages.  However, just like many things in the law it is not that simple.  The law has certain requirements that must be fulfilled before a lemon law case is ripe for litigation.

First, the motor vehicle must be no more than two years old or have less than 24,000 miles on it, which ever period ends first.  Most consumers cannot meet this first element, because the vast majority of the "material defect" used car cases involve vehicles over 2 years old.  True "lemon law" claims involve new vehicles, not ten year old jalopies.  The Lemon Law also does not apply to travel trailers, because they are not self propelled or a vehicle designed for self propulsion.   

The second big issue the consumer faces are, the consumer must report each "nonconformity" to the manufacturer, or the authorized dealer, for the purpose of repair or correction during the two year period following the date of delivery or before the vehicle's mileage reaches 24,000, whichever comes first. The law basically provides consumers presumptions that the motor vehicle is a lemon if their were a reasonable number of attempts under the vehicle's express warranties, and the manufacturer receives advance notice of the defects before attempting the repairs.  The law presumes a reasonable number of attempts have been made if the vehicle has either been in the shop for 3 or more times, and the defect continues, or the vehicle is out of service by repair for a total of 30 or more calendar days.  There is also another presumption the vehicle is a lemon if there is one attempted repair of a nonconformity likely to cause death or serious injury, but the defect continues. 

The manufacturer must also receive "direct written notification" from the consumer, and has had the opportunity to correct the alleged defect.   Notification, can be a request for an "informal dispute settlement procedure" under ORS 646.608.  This means that the consumer must put the manufacturer or the authorized dealer on notice the vehicle is defective and provide an opportunity to cure the alleged defect. It also means that if the manufacturer has established an informal dispute settlement procedure and notifies the consumer of the procedures then the consumer must  resort to the informal resolution procedure (arbitration)  prior to filing a lawsuit.  

If the consumer can satisfy the legal requirements then their case may be ripe and they may feast on the Lemon Law remedies.  The remedies may include, rescission, replacement of the vehicle, or triple damages (capped at $50,000.00 above the amount owed to the consumer). The court may also award discretionary attorney fees, and costs.  The Lemon law can be a powerful tool.  Unfortunately it can also be a sour pill to swallow if the consumer learns they failed to comply with the notice requirements or there vehicle is too old to qualify as a lemon.

If you or someone you know believe they were sold a lemon, please call Ross Law LLC at 503.224.1658.  Also, please remember this blog is a summary of the law.  Please refer to the actual law or a lawyer for an evaluation of your case.   Do not rely on this post for legal advice.  The law is constantly changing and this post may be outdated.  Please do not cite this post in any governmental proceeding, arbitration, hearing, or negotiations.