St. Louis Lemon Law

A common misnomer about the lemon law is that it applies to any defective vehicle, when in fact it only applies to brand new vehicles. Used vehicles are not “lemons,” no matter how much of a piece of junk they happen to be. The law defines “brand new vehicle” to mean any vehicle which has never been titled in someone else’s name.

Therefore, a vehicle with only 100 miles on it would NOT qualify as a lemon if it was previously titled to somebody else. By contrast, a demo vehicle with over 10,000 miles on it WOULD qualify as a lemon, simply because it had never previously been titled to anyone. Likewise, commercial trucks, off-road vehicles, mopeds and motorcycles are all EXCLUDED from lemon law protection. Recreational vehicles are also excluded, with the exception that the chassis, engine, powertrain and component parts are not excluded.

Steps to Bringing a Lemon Law Claim in St. Louis, Missouri

Assuming your vehicle qualifies for lemon law protection, it must meet the definition of a “lemon.” In Missouri, a vehicle is presumed to be a lemon if it suffers from a substantial defect which impairs its use, market value or safety, and the manufacturer (or dealer) can’t fix it after a reasonable number of repair attempts. Essentially, the dealer gets four attempts to fix the same recurring problem or, if the vehicle suffers from different problems, the vehicle must spend at least 30 days in the shop.

The 30-day period need not be consecutive. Once either condition is met, you must then send a letter directly to the manufacturer so the manufacturer can attempt one last repair. If that repair attempt fails, you can then file a lawsuit against the manufacturer, unless the manufacturer requires non-binding arbitration, in which case you must first arbitrate your claim. Even if you lose in arbitration, you still have the right to file your claim in court.

Finally, all the repair attempts must occur within the first 12 months after you purchase the vehicle. Assuming this happens, you must then bring your claim within the first 18 months after the purchase. If either of these conditions is not met, you cannot bring a lemon law claim.

Advantages of Using The Lemon Law

Although the above procedures seem cumbersome, the lemon law is still preferable to almost any alternative. For example, if you brought a rescission claim for the same defect under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), you would have to stop driving the vehicle immediately upon rescission. For many people, having to go without use of a vehicle while their claim is being sorted out would not be a viable option. By contrast, under the lemon law you can keep driving your vehicle throughout the entire litigation without giving up your claim. You can also recover attorney’s fees, which are not available under the UCC.

Remedies Under the Lemon Law

If you win your lemon law claim, the manufacturer either has to either give you a brand new vehicle or refund your money. The manufacturer gets to choose which remedy you get. In either case, the manufacturer is entitled to deduct the reasonable mileage you put on the vehicle while you drove it. You should be aware that getting a brand new vehicle under the lemon law means just that. For example, if you purchase a lemon in 2009, but it takes you until 2011 to prevail on your claim, you should not settle for anything less than a 2011 replacement vehicle at the same price you paid for the 2009 vehicle. Moreover, all the payments you made toward the 2009 vehicle should transfer over to the 2011 vehicle. I have heard of instances where a car dealer has acknowledged a vehicle to be a lemon, only to then treat the lemon has a trade-in on another vehicle. Such a tactic is unconscionable and de-fangs the lemon law. Don’t let this happen to you.