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Lemon Laws: A Beginner’s Guide

This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialists.

In response to our last post on consumer protection law, we determined there was additional interest in “lemon laws.”  Lemon laws are defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as statutes “designed to protect a consumer who buys a substandard automobile, usu[ally] by requiring the manufacturer or dealer either to replace the vehicle or to refund the full purchase price.” So, if you find that the new car of your dreams is actually a waking nightmare, you can use this guide to determine what recourse you might have. Lemon laws vary by state, but this guide should help get you started with your research.

Automobile crash in woods. Photograph by Harris and Ewing. (Created between 1923 and 1929).  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.34034

Automobile crash in woods. Photograph by Harris and Ewing. (Created between 1923 and 1929). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.34034

Statutes

With few exceptions, many lemon laws can be found in state statutes. You can access state statutes through our Guide to Law Online page. Indexes are generally not available online, so it helps if you know the name of the title or code which is concerned with lemon laws so you can browse that title. The organization of statutes varies by jurisdiction, but you might want to look in areas like: “Commercial Law – Miscellaneous Consumer Protection Provisions – Automotive Warranty Enforcement Act”; “Commercial Relations – Motor Vehicle Sales Warranties”; “Consumer Protection”; “Civil Code – Motor Vehicle Warranty.” Be sure to also check federal and state regulations that implement lemon laws.

Case Law

You may also want to locate cases that support your claim. You can locate free case law online. In addition to searching for keywords of interest, you may want to search for cases that cite to the Lemon Law statutes that you have located and narrow your results to your particular jurisdiction.  Also, be sure to visit your local law library to use a legal citator like KeyCite or Shepard’s to make sure the cases you wish to rely upon have not been questioned, distinguished, overturned, or repealed by a subsequent case or statute.

Books

Websites

We hope this post helped you get started with your research. If you have any questions, please contact us through Ask a Librarian.

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