Understanding Connecticut Lemon Law
Roughly 150,000 cars sold in America every year are classified as lemons: cars with repeated, unfixable problems. Lemons can come from any manufacturer: Chevrolet, Nissan, Ford and almost every other manufacturer has built lemon vehicles over the years.
“Lemon laws” enacted across the United States help protect consumers who purchase defective vehicles and compensate them for their losses. Additionally, a powerful federal law known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act provides protection for consumers who purchase cars that are having problems under the manufacturer’s warranty. Some lemons may eventually be recalled by the manufacturer, if the problems are systemic.
The Connecticut lemon law covers passenger vehicles, passenger/commercial vehicles, and motorcycles sold or leased in the state.
The lemon law defines a “passenger vehicle” as one used for the private transportation of persons and their belongings designed to carry occupants in comfort and safety. A passenger vehicle must have no less than half its total area enclosed by the outermost body contour lines used for seating positions. A passenger vehicle may not have a seating capacity greater than 10 people including the operator.
The lemon law further defines a “passenger and commercial” vehicle as one used for both private passenger and commercial purposes eligible for combination registration.
Connecticut’s lemon law protects consumers who purchase or lease vehicles in the state. It further protects those to whom the vehicle is transferred within the express warranty’s duration, and anyone else entitled to enforce the warranty’s obligations.
The Connecticut lemon law covers “nonconformities,” defined as any defect or condition that substantially impairs the use, safety or value of the vehicle to the consumer. The law does not, however, cover nonconformities as a result of abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modifications by the consumer.
The lemon law states a consumer must report a nonconformity to the manufacturer within two years following the original delivery of the vehicle or the first 24,000 miles of operation, whichever is sooner. The manufacturer must then make necessary repairs to conform the vehicle to its warranty.
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The manufacturer must replace or repurchase the nonconforming vehicle if they are unable fix the problem after a reasonable number of attempts. The Connecticut lemon law defines “reasonable number of attempts” as four or more attempts for the same nonconformity, without success. After that, or if the vehicle is out of service for a cumulative total of 30 calendar days, the manufacturer must repurchase or replace the vehicle. These repairs must be undertaken within two years of the vehicle’s delivery or within the first 24,000 miles of operation.
If the nonconformity in question results in a condition likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle is driven, the manufacturer has two attempts to repair it before they must buy it back or replace it. Repairs for a nonconformity this serious must be finished within one year of the vehicle’s original delivery.
The Connecticut lemon law compels manufacturers to repay the full contract price of the vehicle when repurchasing. They must also pay all collateral charges, including sales taxes, license and registration fees, and other government charges. The manufacturer must also pay all finance charges incurred by the consumer after the consumer first reports the nonconformity to them. Finally the manufacturer must pay incidental damages directly caused by the vehicle’s nonconformity, including charges for alternate transportation, towing, and lodging.
Connecticut’s lemon law allows manufacturers to withhold a reasonable allowance for the consumer’s use of the vehicle. That allowance is calculated from the number of miles traveled before the manufacturer accepts the returned vehicle.
When replacing a vehicle under the Connecticut lemon law, the manufacturer must provide a new vehicle acceptable to the consumer. The reasonable allowance for use does not apply to a replacement vehicle.
Connecticut’s lemon law requires consumers to first resort to a manufacturer’s “informal dispute settlement procedure,” if they have one. Informal dispute settlement procedures are commonly known as “arbitration.” The lemon law’s provisions requiring repurchase or replacement do not apply to consumers who do not first resort to arbitration.
In some instances, arbitration can allow for a faster resolution of conflicts between consumers and manufacturers. Arbitration hearings usually last only one day, and take place in a much less formal setting than a court. Consumers should bring all documents relating to the vehicle and the repair process, including the letters exchanged with the manufacturer. They should also arrange for witnesses to appear at the hearing, including friends who have witnessed the vehicle’s problems.
However, arbitration often ends with an outcome unfavorable to the consumer. The third party arbitrator may award the consumer with additional repair attempts, which doesn’t provide any remedy they didn’t have before. They may also decide to dismiss the claim, siding with the manufacturer. The law makes no mention of the ability to recoup attorney’s fees during arbitration. Fortunately, the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act allows for consumers to sue for attorney’s fees alongside damage awards in court.
The manufacturer must abide by the decision of the arbitrator, while the consumer does not. If dissatisfied with the outcome, a consumer can bring civil action in court. By filing a claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, Connecticut consumers can hire lawyers who will represent them without the vehicle owner having to pay any attorneys’ fees directly out of their pocket. This is because the federal Act provides that the vehicle manufacturer shall pay the claimants’ reasonable attorneys’ fees if the claimant prevails against the manufacturer. Lemonlawusa.org encourages vehicle owners with a lemon to obtain legal counsel. You can bet the car manufacturers have legal counsel at the ready to help defend against lemon law claims both in arbitration and in court.