Ron Weiss Aug. 14, 2018

What is a Lemon in Michigan?

I’ve helped thousands of consumers since 1993. So many people start the conversation with “My car is a lemon”. People widely call their defective car a lemon even though it doesn’t meet the technical requirements of the Lemon Law. So they have a sour experience with their major purchase, but that purchase may not be a lemon. What even is the Lemon Law?

First, what we refer to as the Lemon Law is actually called the New Motor Vehicle Warranties Act. I’m going to refer to it as the Lemon Law throughout this post, but now you know the formal name. Obviously, I’d strongly encourage anyone that feels that they have a lemon to consult with an attorney.

If you want to arm yourself with a little information, begin with the rule which can be found starting at Michigan Compiled Law § 257.1401. There are several sections that explain different parts of the law. The Lemon Law covers several areas and this post is not intended to cover everything. I just want to explain the basics.

There are a lot of terms that are defined at the beginning of the rule. We need to know who a “Consumer” is and the law explains that. For purposes of the lemon law, we are generally looking at people who purchase or lease a new motor vehicle for personal, family or household use. So generally, the Lemon Law does not apply to people that sell or lease the new motor vehicle to others. There’s a much more detailed explanation, but this covers the vast number of calls that I receive. Next, it makes sense to understand that we are talking about new motor vehicles, which includes motor vehicles purchased or leased in Michigan or by residents of Michigan where the vehicle is covered by a manufacturers express warranty. Again, leases and purchases can apply.

Next, we need a defect or condition that impairs the use or value of a new motor vehicle to the consumer. There is a lot more to it than this, but this is the next place to look. The consumer would need to first report the defect to the manufacturer or the dealer within the earlier of the manufacturer’s express warranty or 1 year from the delivery date to the original consumer. This is where it starts to get tricky. So many people call about their ten year old used car with high miles where they are far from being the original consumer. So they are out of the requirements of the Lemon Law, but they may very well be covered by another law that acts in a similar way.

Now we know who is covered and what type of vehicles are covered. Now we need to know how many repairs it takes for the vehicle to qualify. The Lemon Law creates a presumption that a vehicle may be a lemon if it is subjected to 4 or more repairs for the same defect if that defect substantially impairs the use or value of the vehicle to the consumer. Alternatively, a vehicle can be a lemon if it is subjected to 30 repair days in the first year after the delivery date to the original consumer. There are notice requirements that come into play here.

I need to mention a great part of the Lemon Law and that is the requirement that the manufacturer pay attorney fees for successful claims. So when I open files, I don’t have to ask my client to pay me, the manufacturer has to take my fee into account in any resolution.

The law explains your recourse if you meet the above. Also, as I’ve stated above, there is so much more to the law, this post is intended just to give you some things to think about. Also, if your car is outside the technical requirements, you still need to look at your options. I carefully weigh the details of every case in determining whether I feel that I can proceed.

If you’ve experienced 4 repairs for a similar item or at least 30 repair days in the first year, I’d encourage you to call me. I hope you’ve enjoyed this summary.