A “lemon law” is a general term for a state statute that regulates manufacturers of motor vehicles, and spells out the circumstances under which they must buyback or replace vehicles that they make and sell to the public. Although some states have lemon laws that cover used cars, and sometimes other products entirely, most specifically deal with the sale of new vehicles. The laws basically place a cap on the manufacturer’s chances to fix defective vehicles that they distribute into the marketplace. The laws can be seen as both a sword and a shield for consumers. The consumer is given a civil right of action for breach of the manufacturer’s warranty if the vehicle he or she purchased suffers from unrepairable defects, and also protects them from a manufacturer’s attempts to delay taking action to remedy the problems by providing caps on the number of repair attempts a manufacturer may make, or the number of days they may use to fix a defect.
Although each state’s lemon law might differ in certain respects, as a general matter they all impose similar requirements. A car buyer must provide notice to the manufacturer that his or her vehicle is defective in some manner and has not been able to be repaired. The laws give manufacturers a specified number of attempts to fix the problem or problems, or give them a specified time period within which the repairs must be made. If it is unable to do so, the law generally requires the manufacturer to buyback or replace the customers vehicle.
North Carolina’s lemon law provides manufacturers with four opportunities to repair a single defect with a consumer’s vehicle, or gives them 20 days within any 12-month period of the warranty to repair a single defect or a series of defects. Therefore, if the manufacturer takes thirty days to repair thirty separate defects than the vehicle would fall under North Carolina’s lemon law; similarly, if a manufacturer tries to repair the same defect four or more times without success, the vehicle would also fall under the lemon law. As mentioned above, consumers in North Carolina must provide manufacturers with notice of the existence of the defect after the third unsuccessful repair attempt or the twentieth (or close to it) day in the shop. If the manufacturer refuses to repurchase or replace the consumer’s vehicle after these milestones have been met, then the consumer has the right to bring an action in court provided they give the manufacturer at least ten-days written notice of his or her intent to do so.
Moreover, lemon laws, like most consumer protection statutes, contain attorney-fee shifting provisions,which require manufacturers to pay the attorney fees of the prevailing consumer, although the circumstances under which these fees may be awarded differ considerably from state to state.
If you think you may have a lemon, be sure to contact an experienced lemon law attorney to discuss your rights. Contact us today to find out more.