Driving a clunker? There is help.
By Dan Sokil (staff writer)
February 9, 2008
Maybe you’ve heard a catchy tune, or seen a commercial on TV about it. But what exactly are you supposed to do if you find yourself driving a “lemon”? Roy “Duke” Milner of Lansdale knows first-hand the problem that can occur. He was having problems with a 2005 Cadillac XLR. “I purchased this Cadillac, new, and everything was fine with it for not quite a year,” said Milner. “Then all of a sudden the trunk was leaking.”
“I returned it to the dealer at least five times, and it was in the shop for about 45 days total, and they just didn’t seem to be able to fix it,” Milner said.
After explaining his situation to Kimmel & Silverman, who filed a Lemon Law case against the manufacturer, Cadillac quickly reached a settlement with the law firm and Milner was able to purchase a new car.
“It took two weeks at most; I was very satisfied,” said Milner. “I was somewhat apprehensive about this, and didn’t think it would get resolved, but was very pleased that it did.”
Pennsylvania’s Lemon Law, according to Kimmel & Silverman’s website LemonLaw.com, “applies to new cars that suffer a nonconformity; a defect or condition, which substantially impairs the use, value or safety; that cannot be repaired after three attempts by an authorized manufacturer’s dealership.”
However, several requirements must be met first. The defect must have occurred within one year or 12,000 miles of purchasing the car, or the terms of the manufacturer’s warranty, whichever comes first. The defect must substantially impair the use, market value, or safety of the car. It also cannot be the result of an accident, abuse, neglect or alteration of the car by someone other than the authorized dealer.
The manufacturer must also attempt three times to repair the defect, or the car must be out of service for a total of 30 calendar days, before a Lemon Law case may be brought.
However, according to attorney Bob Silverman of Kimmel & Silverman (which runs the website LemonLaw.com), contacting the manufacturer yourself is not as successful as it once was. “Most manufacturers are cutting so many employees these days,” said Silverman, “that we’re hearing from our customers that they’re merely being patronized, and that just makes things worse.
Since Lemon Law firms like Kimmel & Silverman have direct access to manufacturer’s legal departments, he added, cases represented by firms that specialize in Lemon Law cases are often resolved more quickly. That proved to be the case for Mallory Durrick of North Wales, who purchased new Nissan Versa in May 2007. The auto quickly developed a water leak and then a mold problem on the front passenger floor.
“They determined first that there was a leak in the seal of the windshield,” said Durrick, “and fixed it, said they were 100 percent satisfied with the repair.” About a month later, on the way to a regular oil change, Durrick noticed the problem had returned.
“I couldn’t believe it. They kept my car for 32 days,” Durrick said, ultimately finding a leak in an air conditioning line.
“When they ripped up the seats and carpeting, the seats of the car were covered in green and black mold,” said Durrick.
After third-party testing by NAL East Environmental Services of Feasterville confirmed the high levels of mold in her vehicle, Durrick tried to contact the manufacturer through the dealership where she purchased the car.
“Nissan was refusing to help me, but Montgomeryville (where she purchased the car) was great,” said Durrick, who filed a Lemon Law case with Kimmel & Silverman.
They reached an agreement with Nissan to buy back Durrick’s car, and she recently returned it.
“I didn’t find it to be difficult at all,” she said. “Since the Lemon Law protects the consumer, all of the legal costs were paid by the manufacturer.”
That cost protection is the key to protecting consumers, said Silverman. “The reason why (Pennsylvania) decided to make litigation free to consumers,” Silverman said, “is because they realize how important it is to level the playing field, between these big manufacturers and consumers.”