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I Think My Car Is A Lemon. Now What? West Virginia's Lemon Law Reviewed

As part of our consumer practice, we often take calls about defective motor vehicles. Most people refer to their cars as lemons. But what does West Virginia’s lemon law say about defective motor vehicles and when are they actually “lemons” under the law?

West Virginia Code 46A-6A-1 et seq. is the applicable state law section(s) that protect consumers from defective motor vehicles. It should be noted that a manufacturer has a duty to REPAIR or REPLACE your vehicle to bring it into conformity with the express warranty, i.e. it should work like a new car is supposed to work. New cars don’t ping, rattle, vibrate, clank, thud, squeak, or squeal. W.Va. Code 46A-6A-3 Manufacturer’s duty to repair or replace new motor vehicles, states:

(a) If a new motor vehicle does not conform to all applicable express warranties and the consumer reports the nonconformity to the manufacturer, its agent or its authorized dealer during the term of the express warranties OR within a period of one year following the date of the original delivery of the new motor vehicle to a consumer, whichever is the longer period, the manufacturer, its agent or its authorized dealer shall make the repairs necessary to conform the vehicle to the express warranties, notwithstanding the fact that the repairs are made after the expiration of the warranty term.

(b) If the manufacturer, its agents or its authorized dealer are unable to conform the new motor vehicle to any express warranty by repairing or correcting any defect or condition which substantially impairs the use or market value of the motor vehicle to the consumer after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer shall replace the new motor vehicle with a comparable new motor vehicle which does conform to the warranties.

West Virginia Code section 46A-6A-4 provides that a consumer has a cause of action for nonconformity or failure to repair or replace the motor vehicle with defects. Section 46A-6A-5 states that a consumer must first allow the manufacturer or their agent or authorized dealer at least three attempts to fix the defect before a lawsuit can be brought, or if the vehicle is out of service by reason of repair for a cumulative total of thirty or more calendar days during the term or during the one-year period, which is the earlier date. Oh, and you must give the manufacturer by written notice at least one opportunity to cure. See 46A-6A-5(c).

So what does this all mean? It means, that a vehicle manufacturer must repair or replace vehicles with defects. Always make sure the manufacturer has written a notice and an attempt to cure the defect. Always take the motor vehicle to the dealer at least three times to give them an opportunity to repair the defect. I encourage my clients to take the vehicle back a fourth time and to request to authorized dealer contact the manufacturer. Also, the consumer should keep notes about the dates and times and the specific problem that has been reported to the dealership. Ideally, these notes will match up with the dealership’s repair notes later on in discovery should a formal case be brought.

If you prove your lemon law case in court, the contract can be rescinded and the consumer awarded their costs of the vehicle, replacement costs, attorney fees, annoyance and inconvenience, and various other damages associated with the case. Check out some of our other blogs on the subject here.

We would be happy to answer more questions about your specific lemon law matter if you prefer to give us a call at 304-245-9097.

- Steven Wolfe