Consumer Protection

Bought a Lemon? Five Things To Know About Oregon's Lemon Law

Auto Fraud and Lemon Law cases are often tragic.  For many people, a vehicle is the biggest purchase of their lifetime.  They spend thousands of dollars on a vehicle and then the vehicle breaks down.   Most of these people hit the internet and attempt to learn as much as they can about Oregon's lemon law and become misinformed.  I field too many calls from uninformed or misinformed consumers.  The five issues below should dispell many myths about Oregon's Lemon Law and help consumers get a basic understanding of Oregon's lemon law.  Remember if you have questions about Oregon's Lemon Law call an Oregon Lemon Law attorney.

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1) Oregon's Lemon Law Only Applies in Very Limited Circumstances:  Oregon's lemon law does not cover all of Auto Fraud.  It only covers a limited number of vehicle purchases and has certain hurdles that a consumer must jump through.   Basically, Oregon's lemon law may apply if a person is a "consumer" (see below) under the lemon law; the new motor vehicle does not comply with the manufacturer's express warranties; the consumer reports each non-conformity to the manufacturer (think agent or authorized dealer), with the purpose of allowing the manufacturer to repair or correct the defect or non-conformity. The consumer must report the non-conformity during the two year period after the consumer took original delivery of the motor vehicle, or during a period that ends on the date which the vehicle's mileage reaches 24,000 miles, whichever ends first.  The law also requires the consumer to provide direct written notification to the manufacturer and provide the manufacturer the opportunity to correct the non-conformity.  A written request directed to the manufacturer for "informal dispute resolution" can be considered "Notification" to the manufacturer.   In summary, just because you bought a car that broke down does not mean it is a lemon.

2) Oregon's Lemon Law ONLY applies to NEW Vehicles:  Oregon's lemon law only applies to new vehicles.  The law specifically defines who a "consumer" is under the Lemon Law.  Oregon Law defines a "Consumer"  as,  " the purchaser or lessee, other than for purposes of resale, of a new motor vehicle used for personal, family or household purposes. "  The good news with this definition is that it means that the lemon law protects people that buy and lease vehicles.  The bad news for most people is that the law only applies to brand new vehicles.   That doesnt' mean people that bought used vehicles do not have a remedy.  They just can't use the lemon law.  Instead, they may have to bring an action under the Unlawful Trade Practices Act, Magnuson Moss Act, Contract Law, or common law Fraud.  

3) Oregon's Lemon Law Does NOT Give You An Automatic Opportunity to Unwind The Deal:  People often call and tell me they have a thirty day right to return their vehicle after the purchase.  Some consumers say they have three days to return the vehicle, but the dealer won't take the vehicle back.  In most cases that is incorrect.  Oregon's Lemon Law does NOT have a provision that permits a person to automatically unwind the deal within a specified period of time for any reason.   

4) The Vehicle is Presumed a Lemon In Some Circumstances (Think 3 repairs or 30 days):  Oregon's Lemon Law presumes that a vehicle is a lemon if either of the following occurs: 1) the manufacturer (agent or an authorized dealer) has been attempted to repair or coorrect the non-conformatiy three or more times and had an opportunity to cure the defect, OR; 2) the vehicle is out of service for more than 30 calendar days (60 Days for motor homes) for the purpose of making repairs, OR; 3) the non-conformity involves a defect that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury and the manufacturer (agent or authorized dealer) has had at least one chance to repair or corrcect the issue and made a final attempt to correct it and it still exists.   This presumption has certain time limitations and only applies if the manufacturer has received prior direct written notification from a consumer and had the chance to repair the defect.  If the presumption doesn't apply your vehicle may still be a lemon, it just becomes a more difficult case.  

5) If You Have a Lemon You May Receive A Substantial Amount of Money:  If the manufacturer forces the matter to court, did not act in good faith, and you win, then the manufacturer may have to pay the consumer up to three times the amount of any damages.  This amount is capped at $50,000.00 though.  The manufacturer may also be required to pay the consumer's court costs, expert fees, and attorney fees. This provision in the law permits lemon law lawyers, such as myself, to take these cases on a contingent fee

Auto Dealer Fraud and Oregon's lemon law is a complicated area of law.  The law is always changing and much of the rights and obligations of the parties are found in the contracts between them.   What this means is that most consumers are going to need to discuss their matter with a lawyer rather than jumping to conclusions after some brief internet research.  If you have questions call Oregon Lemon Law Lawyer, Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658.  Ross law handles Oregon Auto Fraud and Lemon Law cases in Portland, Salem, Astoria, Hood River, Pendleton, Umatilla, Medford, Roseburg, Bend, and throughout Oregon.

REMEMBER!!! There are exceptions to the five issues above and many of the areas addressed are considered gray areas.  Therefore PLEASE do not rely solely on this post.  The law is constantly changing.  This post is not intended to be legal advise and is attorney advertising. 

Jeremiah Ross Named Co-Chair of Oregon Trial Lawyers Association Consumer Law Section

Jeremiah was recently named co-chair of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association's Consumer Law Section.  Jeremiah proudly represents Oregon Consumers in cases involving automobile dealer fraud, lemon law cases, negligent vehicle repairs, and vehicle warranty disputes.  If you, or someone you know, has been ripped off by a car dealer or you have been sold a lemon, call Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658.  Ross Law LLC is an Oregon law firm that represents Consumers and injury clients throughout Oregon.    

 

Congress Shot Down a Rule Meant to Preserve Your Right to a Jury Trial & What You Can Do About It

Arbitration can kill a consumer's case by preventing consumers from having their day in court. Many people who are ripped off by car dealers or subjected to automobile dealer fraud have no idea they relinquished their right to a jury trial by signing an arbitration clause.   The CFPB was taking steps to limit businesses ability to bar the doors to the courthouse and force people into expensive, business-friendly arbitration.   

Congress didn't do consumers any favors this week by killing the CFPB rule that was intended to protect consumers access to justice. However, there are still ways to stay out of arbitration. The NCLC article has identified the ways to combat arbitration clauses despite Congress' terrible decision. Click here to read more.

If you have additional questions call Oregon Consumer Lawyer Jeremiah Ross at Ross Law.  Call 503.224.1658 for your very breif free case evaluation.

Salvaged Cars Flooding into Oregon

Hurricane Harvey is currently pummeling the Texas Coast line.  Buckets of rain have fallen and are expected to continue to fall over the next couple of days.  Major cities have flooded.  People have left their homes in search of safety until the rain and flooding subsides.  Once the rain stops the clean up will begin. Katrina and Sandy have taught us that clean up can take years.  There are entire industries dedicated to natural disaster clean up. Of particular concern is the industry that has evolved to remove and resell the hundreds of thousands of flood vehicles.

Flood vehicles are vehicles that have been in flood areas and the vast majority of them have been partially submerged for a period of time.  These vehicles can develop terrible mechanical and electrical issues even though they may look great.  I have litigated cases involving Hurricane Sandy cars being sold in, or through, Oregon.  Throughout that litigation, I learned how thousands of cars get out of the flood zone and are resold throughout the country.  

First, an insurance company representative typically will go through neighborhoods seeking out homes and vehicles that are insured by their insurance company.  The insurance company employee, or subcontractor, then briefly inspects the vehicle.  The insurance company often renders the vehicle a total loss on the spot.  Then the insurance company immediately initiates the process to total the vehicle and title it as a Flood Vehicle. The vehicles are then transported from the neighborhood to a large holding area.  Thousands of vehicles are then auctioned off and sold around the Country and the world.  Some of the vehicles will wind up in Oregon.

Prior to coming to Oregon, some of the titles may be washed.  Title Washing is a process where a vehicle with a branded title, such as a Flood Vehicle, will be titled in a state that may issue a clean title to that vehicle. Then the vehicle is re-sold and may wind up at your local used car dealer.  The new Title will not be a "branded" or a "Flood" title, so consumers will not be alerted the vehicle will likely have serious electrical or mechanical issues.  

Some dealers will rip consumers off in a more brazen fashion.  These dealers simply take the consumer's money and then provide the branded title after the funds have cleared. Then the dealer claims they informed the buyer that the vehicle was a flood vehicle.  Dealers often have unwary consumers sign a piece of paper noting the vehicle maybe a flood or salvaged vehicle, However, the dealer will simply state this is a standard form.  Then once the salvaged title is provided to the consumer, the dealer uses the document as a defense to claim the consumer knew of the branded title

Buyers need to beware of flood vehicles over the next few years.   If a consumer unknowingly purchases a flood vehicle, then the seller may be liable for the violations of various State or Federal Laws.   

What you Can Do To Try And Ensure You Do Not Purchase a Flood Damaged Car:  It is important for Oregon Consumers to inspect any vehicle they may buy.  That great deal on Craigslist may actually be a terrible deal for a car that is plagued with electrical issues.   Oregonians should inspect the vehicle.  Consumers should examine underneath the vehicle to ensure there are not any mineral deposits, a "silt line," or significant mud.  The headlights may have mud or debris lines inside of them.  The interior and trunk should be inspected for any discoloration that indicates flooding.  If the vehicle smells funny (either of mold or heavy chemicals) that may be an indication of flooding.  The consumer should turn on and off all of the lights and radio, and operate any electrical features (windows, sunroof, rear windshield wiper)to ensure they all function properly.  

The consumer should also pull a title history report from Carfax or AutoCheck to determine: 1) if the vehicle has a branded title, and 2) to determine if the vehicle is from Texas.  However, these reports are not always accurate so they shouldn't solely be relied upon.   If the vehicle was bought or sold at a "Copart" auction yard that is a big red flag that the vehicle had a salvaged title. These tips may assist consumer's in protecting themselves from buying a flood car, but it may not completely protect you.

If you, or someone you know, purchased a vehicle that you believe is a flood vehicle, lemon, or has a salvaged title, then call Jeremiah Ross for your free case evaluation.  Call Oregon Lemon Law lawyer Ross Law LLC at 503.224.1658.  Please remember this is attorney advertising. 

Ross Law Has Been Busy Getting Results For Clients....

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been very busy.   Two weeks ago we were in a Jury Trial on a motor vehicle crash case.  My client suffered soft tissue injuries. The insurance company made a low offer.  The Jury sided with my client.  The Jury's verdict was more than the defendant's insurance company's best offer by roughly 1/3.  This was a very good result. 

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Later that week we resolved a consumer case involving a newer luxury automobile.  My client had taken his vehicle to an authorized dealership for an inspection because it wasn't running right.  The dealer missed a diagnosis and did not notice the oil needed to be changed.  The engine oil sludged up and the engine seized a couple of days after the vehicle was released from the dealer.  We later learned the vehicle's motor had a design issue and the manufacturer had changed the type of oil to put in the vehicle.    We began the process of arbitration.  Then the major local car dealership and a luxury auto manufacturer asked us to engage in mediation.  The dealer agreed to pay to have our dispute mediated.   Prior to mediation the dealership and manufacturer refused to make any offer.  However, the case settled even though we were prepared to arbitrate the case.  My client received money for the engine replacement plus an amount for costs and attorney fees. 

Last week, I was preparing for a trial at the end of the month for an animal bite case.   This case involved a cat bite.  Yes, that is correct, a domestic cat bit my client's hand.  The bite became infected and my client was hospitalized.  Prior to filing the case and preparing for trial, the insurance company refused to make an offer despite tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills.  However, after I worked the case up we were able to settle the case for a substantial sum of money.   My client was thrilled with the result. 

If you or someone you know have any legal issues, call Ross Law LLC at 503.224.1658.  We are happy to discuss your personal injury case, consumer case, or crime victim case.  Please remember that results may vary. Also please note, this is attorney advertisement material.

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.   

National Consumer Protection Week-People and Laws that Protect Consumers

As a consumer attorney I am always attempting to bring awareness to issues that effect consumers.   Things like arbitration clauses, auto fraud, unlawful debt collections, lender fraud, and mortgage fraud, are all issues that consumer lawyers take on.   I focus on a small area of auto fraud, but there are many lawyers in Oregon that represent consumers in all different types of cases. 

This week is the Federal Trade Commission's consumer protection week.  The purpose of this week is to bring awareness to consumer issues.  Why does this matter to you?  It is simple, Consumer issues effect virtually everyone in the United States.  Regulatory agencies and attorneys work tirelessly to ensure that consumer's get a fair shot and attempt to use the law to encourage businesses to change their behavior.  

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For example, things like the Truth In Lending act ensure that you should have the ability to understand your loan and how much it would cost you.  Without attorney's representing consumers that were not provided the proper paperwork disclosing the loan terms, the law would probably be ignored. Businesses wouldn't have any incentive to comply with it. Another example is the car dealer that sells a vehicle "As-Is" and it breaks down the next day.  The Oregon Department of Justice can enforce rules that should protect the consumer if this happens.  Private attorneys can also represent consumers that get ripped off by car dealers.  This will hopefully help educate dealers on the various laws they have broken and provide them an incentive to change their behavior.  Other issues such as banks charging hidden fees or debt collectors calling in the middle of the night are all issues that regulatory agencies and lawyers are constantly battling to prevent.  The bottom line is that if you feel you were ripped off  there are agencies and lawyers that are eager to assist. 

If you have any questions feel free to call Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658.  Jeremiah Ross represents persons in Personal Injury matters, Auto Fraud cases, and crime victims.  LEGAL STUFF: Please note Ross Law is not affiliated with the Department of Justice or the FTC or any other state or federal agency.  This blog post and web-site are not to be considered legal advice, but could be construed as Attorney Advertising.

 

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The Dreaded Arbitration Clause- A Brief Explanation

Many of my consumer cases hinge on the dreaded arbitration clause.  Businesses often bury arbitration clauses in fine print, in difficult to understand language, and the business rarely advises a person they can opt out of the arbitration clause.   With that said,  you are probably wondering, what is the big deal with arbitration clauses?   

The big deal:  Arbitration Clauses strip you of your right to a jury of your peers.  Here in Oregon the vast majority of arbitrators are white males who have been practicing law for decades and decades.  Many of the arbitrators do their best to see things from both sides, but they typically are pretty hard on consumers that have signed things like "As-Is" disclosures or other agreements.  They do this because they are seeing things through the eyes of a lawyer and not a typical consumer who might be on the Jury.   Consumers see things from a real world perspective and understand why a consumer may act in a particular manner.  

Another big issue is cost, many times the consumer has to pay the arbitrator thousands of dollars to hear the case.   It doesn't make sense for a consumer to pay the arbitrator $3,000.00 to preside over a dispute over $5,000.00.  Additionally, Arbitration Clauses are often coupled with Attorney Fee clauses that could make the consumer liable for the businesses attorney fees if they lose.  This can be tens of thousands of dollars. 

Consumers are also crippled by arbitration rules of procedure.  Many arbitration services tout themselves as efficient.  What this means is the rules make it difficult for the parties to gather information from each other and third parties.  This typically always hurts the consumer, because the business has all of the records regarding the product and the sale.   In a products liability case or Nursing Home case that requires arbitration the injured person will have little documentary evidence, but the Nursing Home or product manufacturer will likely have documents that support the injured persons case.   

What to do:  First try and locate the arbitration clause.  This could turn into a full time job for some folks, because many expensive products and credit cards usually are accompanied by a arbitration clause. Sometimes they are buried in the Warranty paperwork or Instructions.  If possible opt out of the arbitration clause.  Also, you can draw a line through an arbitration clause.  Most businesses don't know what to do if that is the case.  If it is an on-line agreement your options are limited, but they may be there. 

If you want more information and a recent example, check out CBS's story on Arbitration Clauses and how Samsung is using it to deprive an injured person of compensation for injuries Samsung caused. 

If you have any questions about an arbitration clause call me at 503.224.1658 to discuss your options.  Please remember Ross Law's post is not legal advice and is for informational purposes only.   Also, remember the law is always changing so who knows if Arbitration clauses may be in vogue in the future.