LEMONS UNDER UTAH’S LEMON LAW
A “lemon law” protects people who buy a lemon—a vehicle that, after leaving the car lot, ends up having serious defects that cannot be repaired. Each state has its own lemon law. Utah’s lemon law essentially explains that if a new motor vehicle doesn’t live up to what the dealer guaranteed, and if the purchaser timely reports the problem to the dealer, the dealer must make any needed repairs or, if unable to repair the vehicle, either refund the purchase price or provide the unhappy purchaser a similar new vehicle.
COVERED VEHICLES AND PROBLEMS
Utah’s lemon law covers most cars—so long as they are new. The main requirement is that the vehicle is intended to be driven on highways (so motorcycles are included but mopeds are out). However, motor homes, although driven on highways, are only partially covered. The self-propelled portion of the motor home and the chassis are protected but not the cabin and living area. Motor vehicles that are over 12,000 pounds are also not covered, except for the portions of a motor home stated above and—interestingly—farm tractors, a vehicle uncommon to the streets of Salt Lake City. Most cars and trucks fall well beneath this 12,000-pound threshold. For example, a 2017 Toyota Tacoma Pickup Double Cab weighs in at 4,230 pounds.
Not every problem is covered under Utah’s lemon law, just those that substantially impair the use, market value, or safety of the motor vehicle. This type of nonconformity must be something more serious that a malfunctioning cup holder, but something like faulty brakes would certainly meet this threshold.
DURATION OF COVERAGE
How long is a car considered new and covered under Utah’s lemon law? A party must report a malfunction car either within a year of purchase or before the end of the express warranty term, whichever is earlier. So long as the buyer reports the car problem within this timeframe, the dealer has a duty to repair the car, even if the repair occurs outside this timeframe.
REMEDY TO BUYER OF A LEMON
As stated above, the dealer must either fix the car or, if unable to do so, provide the purchaser with a complete refund or a similar new car. The dealer has a reasonable number of attempts to fix the car before a refund or replacement is required. Although a “reasonableness” standard is squishy, Utah’s lemon law explains that an attempt to fix is presumptively unreasonable if the dealer has repaired the same issue four or more times or if the car has been out of service because of repair for a cumulative total of thirty days.
Under this standard, few cars go the distance and meet all the hurdles required before a dealer is forced to return the car or provide a replacement. First, most new cars are unlikely to malfunction within the first year or within the warranty period, but it does happen. Next, it is unlikely that a dealer, when presented with a malfunctioning car that qualifies for Utah’s lemon-law protection, will be unable to fix the car, but this happens as well. Perhaps even more unlikely is the scenario where a car dealer refuses to even attempt to fix a defective car or refuses to replace a defective car that it couldn’t fix; however, this does happen too.
Importantly, if a dealer does not live up to its duties under Utah’s lemon law, a disgruntled purchaser can bring a lawsuit seeking to enforce the remedies under this law, and if the purchaser is successful in this lawsuit, Utah’s lemon law allows a purchaser who wins a case to recover his or her attorney fees. The same goes, however, for the dealer. If the dealer is successful in defending the case, it is entitled to recover its attorney fees against the purchaser. Thus, a lawsuit should not be filed lightly, and a good attorney is a valuable asset in navigating the risks and benefits of such a lawsuit.
I am happy to answer any questions you might have about Utah’s lemon law. Whether you are a car dealer dealing with an unreasonable purchaser who is claiming rights under Utah’s lemon law or a purchaser dealing with an unreasonable dealer, I would love to advise you on how to proceed. Give me a call to schedule a free consultation.