Suffering numerous dilemmas with his Dodge Durango, Raul Ortiz successfully battled the manufacturer in Hudson County Superior Court under the New Jersey Lemon Law and the State's Consumer Fraud Act, winning a buyback and $30,000 in damages.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. – After repeated repair attempts to fix his transmission and rear differential on his 2001 Dodge Durango, Kearny, NJ resident Raul Ortiz became more than frustrated with Chrysler's promise of five-star warranty service. His frustration led him to fight the billion-dollar manufacturer in Hudson County Superior Court. On Tuesday, October 12, a jury sided with him under the New Jersey Lemon Law and the State's Consumer Fraud Act, awarding him a full buy back of his vehicle, $30,000 in damages, and attorneys fees. Ortiz was represented by Cherry Hill, NJ based Lemon Law firm of Kimmel & Silverman. Judge Edward O'Connor, Jr, J.S.C. presided over the case.
"Every time I brought the truck in the shop for a problem, it would never seem to get fixed," said Ortiz, who experienced problems with his transmission within the first year of owning the truck. "I couldn't get the truck to shift properly, and then I would hear this strange noise from under the truck which never could be diagnosed." Over a three-year period, Ortiz brought his truck back to a Chrysler-authorized dealership eight times for the same problems.
After exploring his options, Ortiz contacted the Lemon Law firm of Kimmel & Silverman in February 2003. The firm accepted his case under the New Jersey Lemon Law, which states that if a consumer has a problem in the first 18,000 miles or 24 months, which ever comes first, and the problem continues to occur despite a reasonable number of repair attempts, the consumer is entitled to seek remedy from the manufacturer. The maximum remedy is a full refund of purchase, including all taxes, tags and finance charges, minus a small mileage offset.
The Firm agreed to take Ortiz's case on a no-cost basis. If the plaintiff prevailed, Daimler Chrysler would be responsible for paying all attorneys fees and legal costs on top of what the consumer received. If for some reason Ortiz did not prevail, there would be no charge. The firm has provided 100% cost-free legal representation to more than 30,000 consumers since 1991, recovering over $125 million for their clients.
"This was a clear cut Lemon Law case that should never have gone this far," said the Kimmel & Silverman attorney who represented Ortiz. "Chrysler trumpets their five-star service as being superior, promoting a 'problem is fixed the first time' mentality. Mr. Ortiz had quite a different experience, with countless repair visits that seriously interrupted his life, both business and personal, first with the transmission and then the rear differential and transfer case. Chrysler should've fixed the vehicle properly and having failed, should have bought it back a long time ago, without making their customer go to Court."
After a three day trial, the jury agreed with the Kimmel & Silverman lawyer and awarded Ortiz a buy back of $25,822.30, minus a mileage offset as prescribed by the Law, and additional damages of $10,000 which were trebled to $30,000 under the Fraud Act. Kimmel & Silverman will file a petition with the Court to collect their attorneys fees and legal costs from the manufacturer as well.
Daimler Chrysler has yet to appeal the decision. They have 45 days to do so. Daimler Chrysler was represented by attorney Jason Gareis of the Springfield, NJ based law firm of Hardin, Kundla, McKeon, Poletto & Polifroni, PA.
"I am pleased that the jury agreed that Daimler Chrysler misled Mr. Ortiz as to how he would be treated and how his problems would be dealt with," said Ortiz's attorney. "It is unfortunate that it took so long for my client to find closure on this issue and that the manufacturer made no reasonable effort to previously settle this matter."
"I am ecstatic," said Ortiz. "It was a long time coming, but well worth it."