What is a lemon?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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A “lemon law” is a law that is designed to protect consumers against products that are defective or aren’t manufactured to proper standards. In most cases the term lemon law is used to refer to vehicle purchases and a “lemon” refers to the car in question. If you’ve heard a car referred to as a lemon because it keeps breaking down, you’re hearing a reference to the lemon law. There are various lemon laws in place and they can vary for each state. On a federal level, however, the main lemon law is called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is in place to help regulate lawsuits that may arise as a result of lemon products. A consumer who feels he or she has purchsed something defective and should fall under the lemon law can get legal support based on the Warranty Act. The burden generally falls back on the manufacturer and depending on the response of the manufacturer, the case may be handled through arbitration or taken to court. Should the consumer win the lemon law case, whoever is responsible for the product’s warranty (typically the manufacturer) must pay back the consumer for the purchase, damages, and attorney’s fees.

In general, lemon laws cover everything from fraud (previously wrecked or undisclosed vehicles, stolen vehicles, flooded vehicles), to items with a “history of not working” that the manufacturer sells anyway. Most lemon laws require that the purchase meet certain standards regarding the severity of the defect and the amount of time from the time of purchase. Your state may also have a lemon law that sets specific requirements for when a car may be considered a lemon. These laws commonly dictate exactly how many repairs the vehicle has to undergo in a set period of time in order to be considered a lemon vehicle.

If you believe your car may be a lemon, consult with a consumer or lemon law attorney. Your attorney can help you with the process of making a lemon law claim so you don’t suffer financial loss because of your lemon car.

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