Law FAQ: Is my car a lemon?

Is my car a lemon?

Tennessee’s Lemon Law is intended to protect new car purchasers from the occasional vehicle that, for some reason or another, has problems that are beyond repair.

The core of the Lemon Law is at T.C.A. § 55-24-102, which states as follows:

If a new motor vehicle does not conform to all applicable express warranties and the consumer reports the nonconformity, defect or condition to the manufacturer, its agent or its authorized dealer during the term of protection, the manufacturer, its agent or its authorized dealer shall correct the nonconformity, defect or condition at no charge to the consumer, notwithstanding the fact that the repairs are made after the expiration of the term. Any corrections or attempted corrections undertaken by an authorized dealer under this section shall be treated as warranty work and billed by the dealer to the manufacturer in the same manner as other work under warranty is billed.

[Note: many internet sites wrongly reference the old law: T.C.A. § 55-24-201 et seq.

Please be careful when following this statute, as it contains many specific provisions that could make or break your case, such as which particular consumers or vehicles are protected by the Lemon Law.  Indeed, I would recommend that you consult with an attorney before proceeding with a Lemon Law claim.

Here are some of the important highlights from Tennessee’s Lemon Law:

  • Basically, you MAY have a Lemon Law claim if you purchase a new motor vehicle or motorcycle that is ‘substantially impaired.’
  • A ‘substantially impaired’ vehicle is one with problem(s) so pervasive that it is unreliable or unsafe for normal operation, or that reduce its resale market value below the average resale value for comparable vehicles.
  • A vehicle is presumed to be ‘substantially impaired’ if either:
    • The vehicle is out of service by reason of repair for a cumulative total of 30 or more calendar days during the term of protection; OR
    • The manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer has made 3 or more repair attempts for the same nonconformity and the nonconformity remains.
  • In order to claim that a vehicle is substantially impaired, the owner must notify the manufacturer of the need to correct or repair the problem via certified mail.  After the notice has been sent, the manufacturer has 10 days to correct or repair the nonconformity.
    • If the manufacturer has an approved informal dispute settlement procedure, the vehicle owner MUST participate in the procedure.  Yet, the decision reached is nonbinding, therefore if the owner is not happy with the result, he/she may simply file a lawsuit under Tennessee’s Lemon Law.
    • If the manufacturer does not have an approved informal dispute settlement procedure and it does not correct or repair the nonconformity within 10 days, the vehicle owner may file a lawsuit asserting the Lemon Law within the applicable time period.
  • A consumer must file a lawsuit asserting the Lemon Law within 6 months of the expiration of the express warranty term or 1 year following the date of the vehicle’s original deliver to a consumer, whichever is later.  The limitations period does not include the time during which a consumer participates in a manufacturer’s informal dispute resolution procedure.
  • In the lawsuit, a consumer may request either a replacement vehicle or reimbursement of the purchase price.
  • Lastly, even if a consumer has an otherwise valid claim, a manufacturer can defeat the claim if it proves either of the following:
    • That the nonconformity does not ‘substantially impair’ the vehicle; or
    • That the nonconformity was caused by a consumer’s abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modification or alteration of the vehicle.

If you think that you may have a Lemon Law claim, feel free to contact our office.

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1 Comment
  • December 19, 2011 at 10:44 am

    […] have a lemon law claim.  For more information concerning Tennessee’s Lemon Law, please refer to my blog post last week.  Be diligent in your efforts to correct the problem and speak with an attorney so that you […]

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