When life gives you lemons...
What is a “lemon law”?
In recent years, many states have enacted “lemon laws” to provide relief to consumers who have purchased or leased defective vehicles.
In Connecticut, the “lemon law” is a nickname for Chapter 743b of the Connecticut General Statutes. Connecticut’s lemon law provides a fast, accessible, and cost-effective process for consumers to pursue informal arbitration before the Department of Consumer Protection (the “Department”) against the manufacturer of a passenger vehicle that is still under warranty and meets certain requirements. The entire lemon law process can take as little as a few months.
The arbitrator may award the consumer a refund of all amounts paid toward the defective vehicle or a replacement vehicle, in addition to any incidental costs, such as attorney’s fees, license and registration fees, rental car fees, repair costs, and more.
How do you know if your vehicle qualifies as a “lemon”?
Under Connecticut law, your vehicle may be a “lemon” if the following requirements are met:
- you have purchased or leased a new vehicle within the state of Connecticut;
- your vehicle is a passenger vehicle, motorcycle, or combination passenger vehicle; and
- your vehicle has manufacturer’s defects that occurred and were reported to the manufacturer or an authorized dealer within the first to occur of:
- the first two years from the date you received the vehicle, or
- the first 24,000 miles
If your vehicle meets the above requirements, then you may be eligible to bring a lemon law claim against the manufacturer if either 1) the defect has persisted after the manufacturer or an authorized dealer has made a “reasonable number of attempts” to repair it, or 2) your vehicle has been out of service by reason of repair for at least 30 days.
What constitutes a “reasonable” number of repair attempts varies from case to case. Connecticut law generally requires at least one repair attempt, but your case will likely be stronger if there have been at least three or four (assuming it is safe for you to drive the vehicle to the repair site).
To determine whether your vehicle may be eligible for lemon law arbitration in Connecticut, you can input your case information into the Department’s online eligibility tool (https://portal.ct.gov/DCP/Lemon-Law/Lemon-Law-App/Lemon-Law-Eligibility-Tool).
What should you expect during the lemon arbitration process?
If your vehicle qualifies as a lemon, the first step is to file an online complaint form with the Department along with a filing fee. To fill out the form, you will need basic information about your vehicle as well as information regarding the repair attempts undertaken by the manufacturer or authorized dealer (make sure you retain your service records, if possible). You will also need to provide proof that you have notified the manufacturer and financing company, if applicable, that you intend to file a lemon law claim.
Once you have submitted your complaint form and all required documentation, the Department will verify that you are eligible for lemon law arbitration. If the Department decides that you are not eligible, your filing fee will be returned to you.
After your complaint form is accepted, the Department will schedule an arbitration hearing date about a month out. These are often conducted remotely but may be in-person. Your attorney may represent you at the hearing. On your hearing date, you must be prepared to provide testimony and bring any documents, witnesses, or other evidence that supports your claim.
A representative from the Department, who is essentially a vehicle expert, will be present at the hearing to weigh in on the nature of your vehicle’s defect and help the arbitrator determine its severity. The manufacturer may also be present at the hearing and will have the opportunity to present its own evidence, if any, to oppose your case.
After the hearing, the arbitrator will issue a decision – usually within a couple of weeks after the hearing. If the decision was made in your favor, it will specify the relief that the manufacturer must provide to you, whether in the form of money damages or a replacement vehicle.
What should you do if you think your vehicle is a “lemon”?
The Department deals with lemon law claims on a case-by-case basis. The outcome will depend heavily on the facts of your particular case and how they are presented during the arbitration hearing. It is always a good idea to hire a lawyer to help you assemble your case and represent you at the arbitration hearing to ensure the greatest likelihood of success.
If you believe that your vehicle is a lemon or would like an attorney to represent you in the lemon law arbitration process, please contact one of Cohen and Wolf's experienced civil attorneys, and we would be happy to assist.