Virginia Lemon Law Statutes Virginia Lemon Law Title 59.1, Chapter 17.3, 59.1-207.9 - 59.1-207.16
Virginia Lemon Law 59.1-207.9
This chapter may be cited as the Virginia Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act. Virginia Lemon Law 59.1-207.10
The General Assembly recognizes that a motor vehicle is a major consumer purchase, and there is no doubt that a defective motor vehicle creates a hardship for the consumer. It is the intent of the General Assembly that a good faith motor vehicle warranty complaint by a consumer should be resolved by the manufacturer, or its agent, within a specified period of time. It is further the intent of the General Assembly to provide the statutory procedures whereby a consumer may receive a replacement motor vehicle, or a full refund, for a motor vehicle which cannot be brought into conformity with the express warranty issued by the manufacturer. However, nothing in this chapter shall in any way limit the rights or remedies which are otherwise available to a consumer under any other law. Virginia Lemon Law 59.1-207.11
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the following meanings: Virginia Lemon Law 59.1-207.12
"Collateral charges" means any sales-related charges including but not limited to sales tax, license fees, registration fees, title fees, finance charges and interest, transportation charges, dealer preparation charges or any other charges for service contracts, undercoating, rust proofing or installed options, not recoverable from a third party.
"Comparable motor vehicle" means a motor vehicle that is identical or reasonably equivalent to the motor vehicle to be replaced, as the motor vehicle to be replaced existed at the time of purchase with an offset from this value for a reasonable allowance for its use.
"Consumer" means the purchaser, other than for purposes of resale, of a motor vehicle used in substantial part for personal, family, or household purposes, and any person to whom such motor vehicle is transferred for the same purposes during the duration of any warranty applicable to such motor vehicle, and any other person entitled by the terms of such warranty to enforce the obligations of the warranty.
"Incidental damages" shall have the same meaning as provided in 8.2-715.
"Lemon law rights period" means the period ending eighteen months after the date of the original delivery to the consumer of a new motor vehicle. This shall be the period during which the consumer can report any nonconformity to the manufacturer and pursue any rights provided for under this chapter.
"Lien" means a security interest in a motor vehicle.
"Lienholder" means a person, partnership, association, corporation or entity with a security interest in a motor vehicle pursuant to a lien.
"Manufacturer" means a person, partnership, association, corporation or entity engaged in the business of manufacturing or assembling motor vehicles, or of distributing motor vehicles to motor vehicle dealers.
"Manufacturer's express warranty" means the written warranty, so labeled, of the manufacturer of a new automobile, including any terms or conditions precedent to the enforcement of obligations under that warranty.
"Motor vehicle" means only passenger cars, pickup or panel trucks, motorcycles, self-propelled motorized chassis of motor homes and mopeds as those terms are defined in 46.2-100 and demonstrators or lease purchase vehicles with which a warranty was issued.
"Motor vehicle dealer" shall have the same meaning as provided in 46.2-1500.
"Nonconformity" means a failure to conform with a warranty, a defect or a condition, including those that do not affect the driveability of the vehicle, which significantly impairs the use, market value, or safety of a motor vehicle.
"Notify" or "notification" means that the manufacturer shall be deemed to have been notified under this chapter if a written complaint of the defect or defects has been mailed to it or it has responded to the consumer in writing regarding a complaint, or a factory representative has either inspected the vehicle or met with the consumer or an authorized dealer regarding the nonconformity.
"Reasonable allowance for use" shall not exceed one-half of the amount allowed per mile by the Internal Revenue Service, as provided by regulation, revenue procedure, or revenue ruling promulgated pursuant to 162 of the Internal Revenue Code, for use of a personal vehicle for business purposes, plus an amount to account for any loss to the fair market value of the vehicle resulting from damage beyond normal wear and tear, unless the damage resulted from nonconformity to any warranty.
"Serious safety defect" means a life-threatening malfunction or nonconformity that impedes the consumer's ability to control or operate the new motor vehicle for ordinary use or reasonable intended purposes or creates a risk of fire or explosion.
"Significant impairment" means to render the new motor vehicle unfit, unreliable or unsafe for ordinary use or reasonable intended purposes.
"Warranty" means any implied warranty or any written warranty of the manufacturer, or any affirmations of fact or promise made by the manufacturer in connection with the sale of a motor vehicle that become part of the basis of the bargain. The term "warranty" pertains to the obligations of the manufacturer in relation to materials, workmanship, and fitness of a motor vehicle for ordinary use or reasonable intended purposes throughout the duration of the lemon law rights period as defined under this section.
Conformity to all warranties
If a new motor vehicle does not conform to all warranties, and the consumer reports the nonconformity to the manufacturer, its agents, or its authorized dealer during the manufacturer's warranty period, the manufacturer, its agent or its authorized dealer shall make such repairs as are necessary to conform the vehicle to such warranties, notwithstanding the fact that such repairs are made after the expiration of such manufacturer's warranty period. Virginia Lemon Law 59.1-207.13
Nonconformity of motor vehicles
Virginia Lemon Law 59.1-207.14
- If the manufacturer, its agents or authorized dealers do not conform the motor vehicle to any applicable warranty by repairing or correcting any defect or condition, including those that do not affect the driveability of the vehicle, which significantly impairs the use, market value, or safety of the motor vehicle to the consumer after a reasonable number of attempts during the lemon law rights period, the manufacturer shall:
- Replace the motor vehicle with a comparable motor vehicle acceptable to the consumer, or
- Accept return of the motor vehicle and refund to the consumer and any lienholder as their interest may appear the full purchase price, including all collateral charges, incidental damages, less a reasonable allowance for the consumer's use of the vehicle up to the date of the first notice of nonconformity that is given to the manufacturer, its agents or authorized dealer. The consumer shall have the unconditional right to choose a refund rather than a replacement vehicle and to drive the motor vehicle until he receives either the replacement vehicle or the refund. The subtraction of a reasonable allowance for use shall apply to either a replacement or refund of the motor vehicle. Mileage, expenses, and reasonable loss of use necessitated by attempts to conform such motor vehicle to the express warranty may be recovered by the consumer.
- It shall be presumed that a reasonable number of attempts have been undertaken to conform a motor vehicle to any warranty and that the motor vehicle is significantly impaired if during the period of eighteen months following the date of original delivery of the motor vehicle to the consumer either:
- The same nonconformity has been subject to repair three or more times by the manufacturer, its agents or its authorized dealers and the same nonconformity continues to exist;
- The nonconformity is a serious safety defect and has been subject to repair one or more times by the manufacturer, its agent or its authorized dealer and the same nonconformity continues to exist; or
- The motor vehicle is out of service due to repair for a cumulative total of thirty calendar days, unless such repairs could not be performed because of conditions beyond the control of the manufacturer, its agents or authorized dealers, including war, invasion, strike, fire, flood or other natural disasters.
- The lemon law rights period shall be extended if the manufacturer has been notified but the nonconformity has not been effectively repaired by the manufacturer, or its agent, by the expiration of the lemon law rights period.
- The manufacturer shall clearly and conspicuously disclose to the consumer, in the warranty or owner's manual, that written notification of the nonconformity to the manufacturer is required before the consumer may be eligible for refund or replacement of the vehicle under this chapter. The manufacturer shall include with the warranty or owner's manual the name and address to which the consumer shall send such written notification.
- It shall be the responsibility of the consumer, or his representative, prior to availing himself of the provisions of this section, to notify the manufacturer of the need for the correction or repair of the nonconformity, unless the manufacturer has been notified as defined in 59.1-207.11. If the manufacturer or factory representative has not been notified of the conditions set forth in subsection B of this section and any of the conditions set forth in subsection B of this section already exists, the manufacturer shall be given an additional opportunity, not to exceed fifteen days, to correct or repair the nonconformity. If notification shall be mailed to an authorized dealer, the authorized dealer shall upon receipt forward such notification to the manufacturer.
- Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to limit or impair the rights and remedies of a consumer under any other law.
- It is an affirmative defense to any claim under this chapter that:
- An alleged nonconformity does not significantly impair the use, market value, or safety of the motor vehicle; or
- A nonconformity is the result of abuse, neglect or unauthorized modification or alteration of a motor vehicle by a consumer.
Action to enforce provisions of chapter
Any consumer who suffers loss by reason of a violation of any provision of this chapter may bring a civil action to enforce such provision. Any consumer who is successful in such an action or any defendant in any frivolous action brought by a consumer shall recover reasonable attorney's fees, expert witness fees and court costs incurred by bringing such actions. Virginia Lemon Law 59.1-207.15
Informal dispute settlement procedure
Virginia Lemon Law 59.1-207.16
- If a manufacturer provides an informal dispute settlement procedure, it shall be the consumer's choice whether or not to use it prior to availing himself of his rights under this chapter.
- If a dispute settlement procedure is resorted to by the consumer and the decision is for a refund or a comparable motor vehicle, the manufacturer shall have forty days from its receipt of the consumer's acceptance of the decision or from the date of a court order to comply with the terms of the decision.
- In any action brought because of the manufacturer's failure to comply with the decision, within the scope of the procedure's authority, rendered as a result of a dispute resolution proceeding or a court order, the court may triple the value of the award stipulated in the decision as provided for in this chapter, plus award other equitable relief the court deems appropriate, including additional attorney's fees.
Action to be brought within certain time
Any action brought under this chapter shall be commenced within the lemon law rights period following the date of original delivery of the motor vehicle to the consumer; however, any consumer whose good faith attempts to settle the dispute have not resulted in the satisfactory correction or repair of the nonconformity, replacement of the motor vehicle or refund to the consumer of the amount described in subdivision 2 of subsection A of 59.1-207.13, shall have twelve months from the date of the final action taken by the manufacturer in its dispute settlement procedure or within the lemon law rights period, whichever is longer, to file an action in the proper court, provided the consumer has rejected the manufacturer's final action.
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 Virginia lemon laws on these pages is provided by T. Michael Flinn, attorney.