Suing an Auto Dealer for Fraud
How Pennsylvania law protects car buyers, and how a lawyer can helpBy S.M. Oliva | Last updated on January 12, 2023
Use these links to jump to different sections:Christina Gill Roseman, a consumer law attorney in Pittsburgh. “I have a case now where an older vehicle burned up, when it was not running and just outside my client’s garage. We filed suit, had a motion hearing and, lo and behold, six days later, Kia issued a recall for this exact issue. They may think, ‘Problem solved,’ but what about all those other people out there who had this issue and you told them nothing was wrong? I’m out here fighting for a reason.”
Pennsylvania’s Lemon LawAll states currently enforce lemon laws designed to protect buyers of certain vehicles that fail to meet certain basic performance and safety standards. Pennsylvania’s Lemon Law specifically applies to new car purchases that meet the following criteria:
- The vehicle is sold or leased for personal use (as opposed to commercial use);
- The vehicle is designed to transport 15 or fewer people on public roads;
- The vehicle was purchased in Pennsylvania and subsequently registered here, or purchased in another state and initially registered in Pennsylvania; and
- The vehicle suffers a “defect or condition that substantially impairs” its “use, value or safety” during the 12 months following delivery, the first 12,000 miles driven, or the term of the manufacturer’s warranty, whichever expires first.
Federal Laws Governing Used CarsThe Pennsylvania Lemon Law only applies to new vehicles. But that does not mean purchasers of used cars are without any legal protection. The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act is a federal equivalent to the Lemon Law that does not impose the same mileage or new-car restrictions as Pennsylvania does, although the initial defect must still occur within the term of the manufacturer or dealer’s original warranty. The Federal Trade Commission also enforces a Used Car Rule that prohibits any car dealer from misrepresenting the “mechanical condition” or warranty terms of any used vehicle. The dealer must also disclose upfront if a vehicle is sold “as-is” and without a warranty. And where there is a warranty, the dealer must inform the buyer how much of any repair costs will be covered. It is also important for used car buyers to exercise their own due diligence. You should always obtain a vehicle history report, which contains a record of any prior accidents involving a car or truck. If a car salesperson knowingly sells you a car that has an accident record and fails to disclose that fact, you may be able to sue for damages.
Lawyer Up“Is it possible to do something like this on your own? Yes. Is it a good idea? No. Because the manufacturers treat me very differently than they treat unrepresented consumers. ‘Oh no, your car has to be this very special, very narrow thing to qualify under Lemon Law, I’m very sorry,’” Roseman says. “They will lie and misrepresent the law.” Roseman deals with lemon law cases “all day, every day,” she says. And with representation, the process can proceed much more smoothly and quickly, and legal action increases your chances of a good result. The other reason to call an auto fraud attorney, she says: “It’s free. Most of the attorneys in Pennsylvania who do what I do, if you lose, you don’t pay us.” Lemon law attorneys often utilize fee shifting, which is similar to contingency but better, Roseman says. “With contingency, you don’t pay any money down but the attorney gets 33 to 40 percent of your recovery. With lemon laws, the attorney fees are awarded in addition to your reward. It doesn’t diminish your recovery in any respect. So there’s no reason not to.” For more information on this area of law, contact an auto dealer fraud lawyer, and see our overview of consumer law.
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