Understanding Ohio Lemon Law

Every year in America, roughly 150,000 cars sold qualify as lemons: cars with repeated, unfixable problems. Lemons can come from any manufacturer: Toyota, Chrysler, 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 provide a legal procedure to 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 and have an unexpired manufacturer’s warranty.

Ohio’s lemon law applies to passenger cars, noncommercial motor vehicles, and parts of motor homes not part of permanently installed facilities for cold storage, eating and sleeping.

Ohio’s lemon law defines a “passenger car” as any motor vehicle designed and used for carrying no more than 15 people. Per the Ohio Attorney General, a pickup truck used only for business purposes is not covered under the law.

The Ohio lemon law defines a “noncommercial motor vehicle” is any vehicle, including a farm truck,” designed by the manufacturer to carry a load no heavier than one ton. The vehicle must also be used exclusively for purposes other than engaging in business for profit.

Recreational vehicles, including boats, are not covered by Ohio’s lemon law.

Ohio’s lemon law offers protection to vehicle purchasers or anyone leading a vehicle for 30 days or more. It also covers anyone to whom the vehicle is transferred during the duration of the manufacturer’s written vehicle warranty, and anyone else entitled by the terms of the warranty.

Ohio’s lemon law covers any “nonconformity” in vehicles. The law defines a nonconformity as a “defect or condition that substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of a new motor vehicle and does not conform to the express warranty of the manufacturer or distributor.”

If a manufacturer can show the nonconformity was caused by the consumer’s abuse, or neglect, the manufacturer is not responsible. The manufacturer is also not responsible to repair nonconformities caused by unauthorized modifications or alterations to the vehicle by anyone other than the manufacturer or their agents.

Ohio’s lemon law states the manufacturer or its authorized agents must repair any vehicle with a nonconformity once notified by the consumer. The consumer must notify the manufacturer during the period of one year following the original delivery or during the first 18,000 miles of operation, whichever comes first. The manufacturer or its authorized agents must make any repairs necessary to conform the vehicle to the warranty. The repairs must be made even after the expiration of the one year or 18,000 mile period.

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If the manufacturer can’t satisfactorily repair the vehicle so that it conforms to the warranty, the manufacturer must either replace or repurchase the vehicle. Whether the manufacturer replaces or repurchases the vehicle is up to the consumer. However, the manufacturer must be allowed a “reasonable number of attempts” to fix the problem.

Ohio’s lemon law defines a “reasonable number of attempts” as three or more times for the same problem, or eight or more attempts for any nonconformity on the vehicle before the vehicle is considered a lemon. Lemon law provisions also take effect if the vehicle is in the shop for repairs for a cumulative total of 30 days or if any of the attempted unsuccessful repairs was for a nonconformity that results in a condition that is likely to cause death or serious injury if the vehicle is driven.

Ohio consumers seeking to file a civil claim must go through an “informal dispute settlement mechanism,” i.e. arbitration. The arbitration mechanism must abide by rules set by the Ohio Attorney General, and the consumer must receive timely notification of its availability. However, if there is no such mechanism, the manufacturer takes too long to promptly fulfill the decision made in arbitration, or the consumer is dissatisfied with the decision, the consumer may bring civil action in court.

Any legal action must be started within five years of the date of the vehicle’s original delivery to the consumer.

Arbitration is often touted as a faster, easier method of dispute resolution. However it often ends with an unfavorable outcome 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.

Ohio 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, Ohio 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 may have to 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.

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