If I bought a lemon from a car lot and I write on the side of my car not to buy from this lot becauseI wasa LEMON, could the owner sue me for liable?

UPDATED: Sep 16, 2011

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If I bought a lemon from a car lot and I write on the side of my car not to buy from this lot becauseI wasa LEMON, could the owner sue me for liable?

Asked on September 16, 2011 under General Practice, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It depends:

1) if your state has a "lemon law," then whether or not a car is a lemon is an actual factual assertion, like saying that it is a coup vs. a sedan, or light truck vs. car; that is, if there is a statutory definition of what a lemon is in your state, it's no longer a matter of opinion, but rather of whether there has been a determination as to the car's status.

1a) this is significant because if something is an opinion, it's not defamation, no matter how negative; so if you wrote "don't buy from Joe's Car-o-Rama because his car's SUCK!" that's  an opinion (there is no definition of "suck") and so non-actionable

2) Defamation is the public making--so writing on the side of a car driven in public would qualify--of an untrue factual statement which harms a person's or business's reputation. Certainly, calling a car dealer's car a lemon could harm their repuation. So then the issue, if there is a lemon law in your state and so a statutory definition of lemon, is whether or not the car meets that definition. If it does not meet that definition, you have committed defamation; and even if you feel that it has met the definition, if the dealership or manufacture has not taken the car back as a lemon, or there has not been a court determination that it's a lemon, the matter is at least subject to debate and you could potentially wind up in litigation.

Short answer: express your opinion without using the word "lemon" or any word that may have a specific factual meaning; restrict yourself to things that are obviously opinions if you feel you must express yourself (it's better to not; the best thing to do would be to take whatever legal action is appropriate to receive the compensation you are legally due--such as an action under a lemon law).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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