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Fifth DCA Resolves Lemon Law Claim in Favor of Consumer

Posted: July 25, 2010 Filed under: Case Law, Law-Related News

Concluding that the evidence presented by a Mustang owner and his expert was sufficient to create a conflict with the evidence presented by Ford Motor Company, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed a trial judge’s order granting directed verdict in favor of Ford (in other words, the trial court had taken away a jury’s finding in favor of the consumer).

Medina v. Ford Motor Co. involved a 2006 Mustang purchased from a Seminole County Ford dealership. Soon after the purchase, the car’s owner noticed that “the engine would rev when he stopped at a stop light and would idle at 3000 rpms or above. Each episode lasted approximately 20 seconds. In addition, the gas tank did not fill properly.”

In reaching its decision reinstating the jury’s verdict in favor of the consumer, the Court of Appeal summarized the Florida Lemon Law as follows:

By enacting the Florida Lemon Law, the Legislature created a procedure by which consumers could either receive a replacement vehicle or a full refund for a vehicle that cannot be brought into conformity with the warranty provided in the act. § 681.101, Fla. Stat. (2009). A “nonconformity” is defined as “a defect or condition that substantially impairs the use, value, or safety of a motor vehicle, but does not include a defect or condition that results from an accident, abuse, neglect, modification, or alteration of the motor vehicle by persons other than the manufacturer or its authorized service agent.” § 681.102(16), Fla. Stat. (2009). Under the Florida Lemon Law, a manufacturer is liable if a motor vehicle:

[d]oes not conform to the warranty and the consumer first reports the problem to the manufacturer or its authorized service agent during the Lemon Law rights period, the manufacturer or its authorized service agent shall make such repairs as are necessary to conform the vehicle to the warranty, irrespective of whether such repairs are made after the expiration of the Lemon Law rights period. Such repairs shall be at no cost to the consumer if made during the term of the manufacturer’s written express warranty. § 681.103(1), Fla. Stat. (2009).

After three attempts to repair the nonconformity, the consumer is required to give the manufacturer written notification of the need to repair the nonconformity and a final opportunity to cure it. The manufacturer must respond and give the consumer the opportunity to have the vehicle repaired. § 681.104(1)(a), Fla. Stat. (2009). If the manufacturer or service agent is unable to fix the nonconformity after a reasonable number of attempts, it must repurchase the motor vehicle and refund the full purchase price to the consumer or provide the consumer with an acceptable replacement vehicle. § 681.104(2)(a), Fla. Stat. (2009).

Admitted: Florida, Kansas, New Mexico (inactive)