Alabama Lemon Law Statutes
Alabama Lemon law Definitions.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the respective meanings as indicated:
The purchaser, other than for purposes of resale, of a new or previously untitled motor vehicle used in substantial part for personal, family, or household purposes, and any other person entitled by the terms of such warranty to enforce the obligations of the warranty.
- Motor vehicle.
Every vehicle intended primarily for use and operation on the public highways which is self-propelled; provided, however, that the term "motor vehicle" shall not apply to motor homes or to any motor vehicle having a manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,000 pounds or more.
The person, firm, or corporation engaged in the business of manufacturing, importing and/or distributing motor vehicles to be made available to a motor vehicle dealer for retail sale.
- Motor vehicle dealer or Authorized dealer.
The person, firm, or corporation operating under a dealer agreement from a manufacturer, importer, or distributor and who is engaged regularly in the business of buying, selling or exchanging motor vehicles in this state and who has in this state an established place of business.
- Express warranty.
A written warranty, so labeled, issued by the manufacturer of a new motor vehicle, including any terms or conditions precedent to the enforcement of obligations under that warranty.
- Nonconforming condition.
Any condition of a motor vehicle which shall not be in conformity with the terms of any express warranty issued by the manufacturer to a consumer and which: (i) significantly impairs the use, value or safety of the motor vehicle and (ii) occurs or arises solely in the course of the ordinary use of the motor vehicle, and which does not arise or occur as a result of abuse, neglect, modification, or alteration of the motor vehicle not authorized by the manufacturer, nor from any accident or other damage to the motor vehicle which occurs or arises after such motor vehicle was delivered by an authorized dealer to the consumer.
- Notice of a nonconforming condition.
A written statement which shall be delivered to the manufacturer and which shall describe the subject motor vehicle, the nonconforming condition, and shall describe all previous attempts to correct such nonconforming condition by identifying the person, firm or corporation who or which made such attempt, and the time when such attempt was made.
- Lemon law rights period.
The period ending one year after the date of the original delivery of a motor vehicle to a consumer or the first 12,000 miles of operation, whichever first occurs.
Alabama Lemon law Section 8-20A-2 Obligations of manufacturer.
- If a new motor vehicle does not conform to any applicable express warranty, and the consumer delivers the motor vehicle to the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer, and gives notice of the nonconforming condition during the lemon law rights period, the manufacturer of the motor vehicle shall be obligated to make such repairs to the motor vehicle as shall be necessary to remedy any nonconforming condition thereof. Such repairs shall be required even after the expiration of the lemon law rights period provided that notice of the nonconforming condition was first given during the lemon law rights period and provided further that the manufacturer's obligation to repair the nonconforming condition shall not extend beyond the period of 24 months following delivery of the vehicle or 24,000 miles, whichever occurs first.
- If, after reasonable attempts, the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer is unable to conform the motor vehicle to any express warranty by repairing or correcting a nonconforming condition of the motor vehicle which first occurred during the lemon law rights period, the manufacturer shall, at the option of the consumer, replace the motor vehicle with a comparable new motor vehicle or shall accept return of the vehicle from the consumer and refund to the consumer the following:
- The full contract price including, but not limited to, charges for undercoating, dealer preparation and transportation charges, and installed options, plus the nonrefundable portions of extended warranties and service contracts;
- All collateral charges, including but not limited to, sales tax, license and registration fees, and similar government charges;
- All finance charges incurred by the consumer after he first reported the nonconformity to the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer; and
- Any incidental damages which shall include the reasonable cost of alternative transportation during the period that the consumer is without the use of the motor vehicle because of the nonconforming condition. There shall be offset against any monetary recovery of the consumer a reasonable allowance for the consumer's use of the vehicle. Refunds shall be made to the consumer, and any lien holders, as their interests may appear. A reasonable allowance for use is that amount directly attributable to use by the consumer before his first report of the nonconformity to the manufacturer, agent, or authorized dealer, and must be calculated by multiplying the full purchase price of the motor vehicle by a fraction having as its denominator 100,000 and having as its numerator the number of miles that the vehicle travelled before the first report of nonconformity.
- It shall be presumed that reasonable attempts to correct a nonconforming condition have been allowed by the consumer if, during the period of 24 months following delivery of the vehicle or 24,000 miles, whichever first occurs, either of the following events shall have occurred:
- The same nonconforming condition has been subject to repair attempts three or more times by the manufacturer, its agents or its authorized dealers, at least one of which occurred during the lemon law rights period, plus a final attempt by the manufacturer, and the same nonconforming condition continues to exist; or
- The motor vehicle is out of service and in the custody of the manufacturer, its agent, or an authorized dealer due to repair attempts (including the final repair attempt), one of which occurred during the lemon law rights period, for a cumulative total of 30 calendar days, unless such repair could not be performed because of conditions beyond the control of the manufacturer, its agents or authorized dealers, such as war, invasion, strike, fire, flood, or other natural disaster.
Alabama Lemon law Section 8-20A-3 Cause of action against manufacturer.
- A consumer sustaining damages as a proximate consequence of the failure by a manufacturer to perform its obligations imposed under this chapter may bring a civil action against the manufacturer to enforce the provisions of this chapter. Prior to the commencement of any such proceeding a consumer must give notice of a nonconforming condition by certified United States mail to the manufacturer and demand correction or repair of the nonconforming condition. If at the time such notice of a nonconforming condition is given to the manufacturer, a presumption has arisen that reasonable attempts to correct a nonconforming condition have been allowed, the manufacturer shall be given a final opportunity to cure the nonconforming condition. The manufacturer shall within seven calendar days of receiving the written notice of nonconforming condition notify the consumer of a reasonably accessible repair facility. After delivery of the new vehicle to the authorized repair facility by the consumer, the manufacturer shall attempt to correct the nonconforming condition and conform the vehicle to the express warranty within a period not to exceed 14 calendar days. If a manufacturer has established an informal dispute settlement procedure which is in compliance with federal rules and regulations, a consumer must first exhaust any remedy afforded to the consumer under the informal dispute procedure of the manufacturer before a cause of action may be instituted under the provisions of this chapter.
- It shall be an affirmative defense to any claim against the manufacturer under this chapter that:
- an alleged nonconforming condition does not significantly impair the use, market value, or safety of the motor vehicle; or
- a nonconforming condition is a result of abuse, neglect, or any modification or alteration of a motor vehicle by a consumer that is not authorized by the manufacturer.
- If it is determined that the manufacturer has breached its obligations imposed under this chapter, then the consumer shall be entitled to recover, in addition to the remedy provided under Section 8-20A-2 above, an additional award for reasonable attorneys fees.
Alabama Lemon law Section 8-20A-4 Resale of returned motor vehicle.
If a motor vehicle has been returned to the manufacturer under the provisions of this chapter or a similar statute of another state, whether as the result of a legal action or as the result of an informal dispute settlement proceeding, it may not be resold in this state unless:
- The manufacturer discloses in writing to the subsequent purchaser the fact that the motor vehicle was returned under the provisions of this chapter and the nature of the nonconformity to the vehicle warranty.
- The manufacturer returns the title of the motor vehicle to the Alabama Department of Revenue advising of the return of the motor vehicle under provisions of this chapter with an application for title in the name of the manufacturer. The Department of Revenue shall brand the title issued to the manufacturer and all subsequent titles to the motor vehicle with the following statement: THIS VEHICLE WAS RETURNED TO THE MANUFACTURER BECAUSE IT DID NOT CONFORM TO ITS WARRANTY.
Alabama Lemon law Section 8-20A-5 No dealership liability.
Nothing in this chapter imposes any liability upon a motor vehicle dealer or authorized dealer or creates a cause of action by a consumer against a motor vehicle dealer or authorized dealer. A motor vehicle dealer or authorized dealer may not be made a party defendant in any action involving or relating to this chapter. The manufacturer shall not charge back or require reimbursement by a motor vehicle dealer or authorized dealer for any costs, including, but not limited to, any refunds or vehicle replacements, incurred by the manufacturer arising out of this chapter.
Alabama Lemon law Section 8-20A-6 Statute of limitations.
Any action brought under this chapter against the manufacturer shall be commenced within three years following the date of original delivery of the motor vehicle to the consumer.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a Federal Law that protects the buyer of any product which costs more than $25 and comes with an express written warranty. This law applies to any product that you buy that does not perform as it should.
Your car is a major investment, rationalized by the peace of mind that flows from its expected dependability and safety. Accordingly, you are entitled to expect an automobile properly constructed and regulated to provide reasonably safe, trouble-free, and dependable transportation? regardless of the exact make and model you bought. Unfortunately, sometimes these principles do not hold true and defects arise in automobiles. Although one defect is not actionable, repeated defects are as there exists a generally accepted rule that unsuccessful repair efforts render the warrantor liable. Simply put, there comes a time when enough is enough? when after having to take your car into the shop for repairs an inordinate number of times and experiencing all of the attendant inconvenience, you are entitled to say, That's all and revoke, notwithstanding the seller's repeated good faith efforts to fix the car. The rationale behind these basic principles is clear: once your faith in the vehicle is shaken, the vehicle loses its real value to you and becomes an instrument whose integrity is impaired and whose operation is fraught with apprehension. The question thus becomes when is enough?
As you know, enough is never enough from your warrantor's point of view and you should simply continue to have your defective vehicle repaired? time and time again. However, you are not required to allow a warrantor to tinker with your vehicle indefinitely in the hope that it may eventually be fixed. Rather, you are entitled to expect your vehicle to be repaired within a reasonable opportunity. To this end, both the federal Moss Warranty Act, and the various state lemon laws, require repairs to your vehicle be performed within a reasonable opportunity.
Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a warrantor should perform adequate repairs in at least two, and possibly three, attempts to correct a particular defect. Further, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act's reasonableness requirement applies to your vehicle as a whole rather than to each individual defect that arises. Although most of the Lemon Laws vary from state to state, each individual law usually require a warrantor to cure a specific defect within four to five attempts or the automobile as a whole within thirty days. If the warrantor fails to meet this obligation, most of the lemon laws provide for a full refund or new replacement vehicle. Further, this reasonable number of attempts/reasonable opportunity standard, whether it be that of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act or that of the Lemon Laws, is akin to strict liability? once this threshold has been met, the continued existence of a defect is irrelevant and you are still entitled to relief.
One of the most important parts of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is its fee shifting provision. This provision provides that you may recover the attorney fees incurred in the prosecution of your case if you are successful? independent of how much you actually win. That rational behind this fee shifting provision is to twofold: (1) to ensure you will be able to vindicate your rights without having to expend large sums on attorney's fees and (2) because automobile manufacturers are able to write off all expenses of defense as a legitimate business expense, whereas you, the average consumer, obviously does not have that kind of economic staying power. Most of the Lemon Laws contain similar fee shifting provisions.
You may also derive additional warranty rights from the Uniform Commercial Code; however, the Code does not allow you in most states to recover your attorney fees and is also not as consumer friendly as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act or the various state lemon laws.
Uniform Commercial Code Summary
The Uniform Commercial Code or UCC has been enacted in all 50 states and some of the territories of the United States. It is the primary source of law in all contracts dealing with the sale of products. The TARR refers to Tender, Acceptance, Rejection, Revocation and applies to different aspects of the consumer's "relationship" with the purchased goods.
The tender provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code contained in Section2-601 provide that the buyer is entitled to reject any goods that fail in any respect to conform to the contract. Unfortunately, new cars are often technically complex and their innermost workings are beyond the understanding of the average new car buyer. The buyer, therefore, does not know whether the goods are then conforming.
The new car buyer accepts the goods believing and expecting that the manufacturer will repair any problem he has with the goods under the warranty.
The new car buyer may discover a problem with the vehicle within the first few miles of his purchase. This would allow the new car buyer to reject the goods. If the new car buyer discovers a defect in the car within a reasonable time to inspect the vehicle, he may reject the vehicle. This period is not defined. On the one hand, the buyer must be given a reasonable time to inspect and that reasonable time to inspect will be held as an acceptance of the vehicle. The Courts will decide this reasonable time to inspect based on the knowledge and experience of the buyer, the difficulty in discovering the defect, and the opportunity to discover the defect.
The following is an example of a case of rejection: Mr. Zabriskie purchase a new 1966 Chevrolet Biscayne. After picking up the car on Friday evening, while en route to his home 2.5 miles away, and within 7/10ths of a mile from the dealership, the car stalled and stalled again within 15 feet. Thereafter, the car would only drive in low gear. The buyer rejected the vehicle and stopped payment on his check. The dealer contended that the buyer could not reject the car because he had driven it around the block and that was his reasonable opportunity to inspect. The New Jersey Court said;
To the layman, the complicated mechanisms of today's automobile are a complete mystery. To have the automobile inspected by someone with sufficient expertise to disassemble the vehicle in order the discover latent defects before the contract is signed, is assuredly impossible and highly impractical. Consequently, the first few miles of driving become even more significant to the excited new car buyer. This is the buyer's first reasonable opportunity to enjoy his new vehicle to see if it conforms to what it was represented to be and whether he is getting what he bargained for. How long the buyer may drive the new car under the guise of inspection of new goods is not an issue in the present case because 7/10th of a mile is clearly within the ambit of a reasonable opportunity to inspect. Zabriskie Chevrolet, Inc. v. Smith, 240 A. 2d 195(1968)
It is suggested that Courts will tend to excuse use by consumers if possible.
What happens when the consumer has used the new car for a lengthy period of time? This is the typical lemon car case. The UCC provides that a buyer may revoke his acceptance of goods whose non-conformity substantially impairs the value of the goods to him when he has accepted the goods without discovery of a non-conformity because it was difficult to discover or if he was assured that non-conformities would be repaired. Of course, the average new car buyer does not learn of the nonconformity until hundreds of thousands of miles later. And because quality is job one, and manufacturers are competing on the basis of their warranties, the consumer always is assured that any noncomformities he does discover will be remedied.
What is a noncomformity substantially impairing the value of the vehicle?
- A noncomformity may include a number of relatively minor defects whose cumulative total adds up to a substantial impairment. This is the "Shake Faith" Doctrine first stated in the Zabrisikie case. "For a majority of people the purchase of a new car is a major investment, rationalized by the peace of mind that flows from its dependability and safety. Once their faith is shaken, the vehicle loses not only its real value in their eyes, but becomes an instrument whose integrity is substantially impaired and whose operation is fraught with apprehension".
- A substantial noncomformity may include a failure or refusal to repair the goods under the warranty. In Durfee V. Rod Baxter Imports, the Minnesota Court held that the Saab owner that was plagued by a series of of annoying minor defects and stalling, which were never repaired after a number of attempts, could revoke, "if repairs are not successfully undertaken within a reasonable time", the consumer may elect to revoke.
- Substantial Non Conformity and Lemon Laws often define what may be considered a substantial impairment. These definitions have been successfully used to flesh out the substantial impairment in the UCC.
Additional narrative information on Magnuson-Moss, UCC and Alabama lemon laws on these pages is provided by T. Michael Flinn, attorney.