Understanding Kansas Lemon Law
Auto manufacturers sell 150,000 cars in America every year classified as lemons: cars with repeated, unfixable problems. Lemons can come from any manufacturer: Honda, Chevrolet, Ford and 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 Kansas lemon law covers the original consumer of a vehicle, whether they purchase or lease. The lemon law covers vehicles sold or leased in Kansas registered with a gross weight of 12,000 pounds or less. The lemon law does not cover used vehicles, or the customized parts added by converters or second stage manufacturers.
Kansas’ lemon law covers vehicle “nonconformities.” The lemon law defines a nonconformity as any problem causing the vehicle to not conform to all applicable warranties. The lemon law does not cover any problem that does not substantially impair the use and value of the vehicle. It further does not cover any nonconformity caused by neglect, abuse, or unauthorized modification by the consumer.
The Kansas lemon law compels manufacturers to repair all nonconformities reported to them within the warranty period or within one year following the vehicle’s delivery, whichever comes first. The repairs must be made even after the warranty term expires.
The lemon law requires manufacturers to repurchase or replace a nonconforming vehicle if they are unable to conform the vehicle to its warranty. However, the consumer must allow the manufacturer a “reasonable number of attempts” to repair the vehicle.
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The Kansas lemon law establishes the presumption of a reasonable number of repair attempts if the manufacturer has attempted to fix the problem four or more times with no success. The law further establishes the presumption if the vehicle is out of service for a cumulative total of 30 or more calendar days. The presumption is met if the vehicle has required 10 or more repair attempts for any nonconformities as well.
Kansas’ lemon law requires manufacturers to repay the full purchase or lease price when repurchasing a vehicle. They must also repay all collateral charges. They are allowed by the lemon law to withhold a reasonable allowance for use, calculated using the miles driven by the vehicle before the first report of nonconformity.
The lemon law requires manufacturers replacing a vehicle to provide a comparable vehicle under warranty. The reasonable allowance for use clause does not apply to replacements.
The Kansas lemon law’s provisions for repurchase or replacement won’t apply unless the consumer first resorts to the manufacturer’s informal dispute settlement procedure, i.e. arbitration.
In an arbitration, a neutral third party (an arbitrator) decides whether a reasonable number of repair attempts have been made and what award, if any, should be granted to the consumer. If the consumer accepts the arbitrator’s decision, the manufacturer agrees to comply with it. A manufacturer’s arbitration process must comply with the Code of Federal Regulations.
There are downsides to the arbitration process. Firstly, attorneys are not required for either side in arbitration. However, the manufacturer will certainly either send an attorney or someone advised by an attorney. Consumers can bring legal representation, though legal fees may not be awarded by the arbitrator unless the manufacturer has chosen to include them as an award in their arbitration application. Any consumer looking to pursue the arbitration process in Kansas is advised to speak with a law firm beforehand.
Arbitration programs allegedly assist both consumer and manufacturer in collecting evidence to be presented from each side, so that it may be shared with both sides prior to the hearing. Unfortunately, in arbitration both sides have fewer rights to discovery: the legal process by which litigants can obtain evidence. In a lemon law case this puts consumers at a disadvantage, as they need discovery to gather evidence to prove their cases, and much of the evidence is held by the manufacturer and dealership.
Before the arbitration begins, the owner should collect 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. The vehicle in question should also be ready for inspection and test drive at the hearing.
Kansas consumers with warrantied vehicle problems would be well served to contact a law firm for a consultation on what their next step should be, whether it be going through with arbitration or proceeding to trial. In court, consumers are guaranteed the ability to gather evidence under the state’s civil discovery rules, and to be represented by a qualified lawyer who can guide them through the often complex legal process.
By pursuing a claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, Kansas 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.