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North Carolina Lemon Law

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North Carolina Lemon Law Statutes

North Carolina Lemon law - Chapter 90, Section 7N

New Motor Vehicles Warranties Act

§ North Carolina Lemon law 20-351. Purpose.

This Article shall provide State and private remedies against motor vehicle manufacturers for persons injured by new motor vehicles failing to conform to express warranties. (1987, c. 385.)

§ North Carolina Lemon law 20-351.1. Definitions.

As used in this Article:
  1. "Consumer" means the purchaser, other than for purposes of resale, or lessee from a commercial lender, lessor, or from a manufacturer or dealer, of a motor vehicle, and any other person entitled by the terms of an express warranty to enforce the obligations of that warranty.
  2. "Manufacturer" means any person or corporation, resident or nonresident, who manufactures or assembles or imports or distributes new motor vehicles which are sold in the State of North Carolina.
  3. "Motor vehicle" includes a motor vehicle as defined in G.S. 20-4.01 which is sold or leased in this State, but does not include "house trailer" as defined in G.S. 20-4.01 or any motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds or more.
  4. "New motor vehicle" means a motor vehicle for which a certificate of origin, as required by G.S. 20-52.1 or a similar requirement in another state, has never been supplied to a consumer, or which a manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer states in writing is being sold as a new motor vehicle. (1987, c. 385; 1989, c. 43, s. 2, c. 519, s. 2.)

§ North Carolina Lemon law 20-351.2. Require repairs; when mileage warranty begins to accrue.

  1. Express warranties for a new motor vehicle shall remain in effect at least one year or 12,000 miles. If a new motor vehicle does not conform to all applicable express warranties for a period of one year, or the term of the express warranties, whichever is greater, following the date of original delivery of the motor vehicle to the consumer, and the consumer reports the nonconformity to the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer during such period, the manufacturer shall make, or arrange to have made, repairs necessary to conform the vehicle to the express warranties, whether or not these repairs are made after the expiration of the applicable warranty period.
  2. Any express warranty for a new motor vehicle expressed in terms of a certain number of miles shall begin to accrue from the mileage on the odometer at the date of original delivery to the consumer. (1987, c. 385; 1989, c. 14.)

§ North Carolina Lemon law 20-351.3. Replacement or refund; disclosure requirement.

  1. When the consumer is the purchaser or a person entitled by the terms of the express warranty to enforce the obligations of the warranty, if the manufacturer is unable, after a reasonable number of attempts, to conform the motor vehicle to any express warranty by repairing or correcting, or arranging for the repair or correction of, any defect or condition or series of defects or conditions which substantially impair the value of the motor vehicle to the consumer, and which occurred no later than 24 months or 24,000 miles following original delivery of the vehicle, the manufacturer shall, at the option of the consumer, replace the vehicle with a comparable new motor vehicle or accept return of the vehicle from the consumer and refund to the consumer the following:
     
    1. The full contract price including, but not limited to, charges for undercoating, dealer preparation and transportation, and installed options, plus the non-refundable portions of extended warranties and service contracts;
    2. All collateral charges, including but not limited to, sales tax, license and registration fees, and similar government charges;
    3. All finance charges incurred by the consumer after he first reports the nonconformity to the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer; and
    4. Any incidental damages and monetary consequential damages.
  2. When consumer is a lessee, if the manufacturer is unable, after a reasonable number of attempts, to conform the motor vehicle to any express warranty by repairing or correcting, or arranging for the repair or correction of, any defect or condition or series of defects or conditions which substantially impair the value of the motor vehicle to the consumer, and which occurred no later than 24 months or 24,000 miles following original delivery of the vehicle, the manufacturer shall, at the option of the consumer, replace the vehicle with a comparable new motor vehicle or accept return of the vehicle from the consumer and refund the following:
     
    1. To the consumer: a. All sums previously paid by the consumer under the terms of the lease; b. All sums previously paid by the consumer in connection with entering into the lease agreement, including, but not limited to, any capitalized cost reduction, sales tax, license and registration fees, and similar government charges; and c. Any incidental and monetary consequential damages.
    2. To the lessor, a full refund of the lease price, plus an additional amount equal to five percent (5%) of the lease price, less eighty-five percent (85%) of the amount actually paid by the consumer to the lessor pursuant to the lease. The lease price means the actual purchase cost of the vehicle to the lessor. In the case of a refund, the leased vehicle shall be returned to the manufacturer and the consumer's written lease shall be terminated by the lessor without any penalty to the consumer. The lessor shall transfer title of the motor vehicle to the manufacturer as necessary to effectuate the consumer's rights pursuant to this Article, whether the consumer chooses vehicle replacement or refund.
  3. Refunds shall be made to the consumer, lessor and any lienholders as their interests may appear. The refund to the consumer shall be reduced by a reasonable allowance for the consumer's use of the vehicle. A reasonable allowance for use is that amount directly attributable to use by the consumer prior to his first report of the nonconformity to the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer, and during any subsequent period when the vehicle is not out of service because of repair. "Reasonable allowance" is presumed to be the cash price or the lease price, as the case may be, of the vehicle multiplied by a fraction having as its denominator 100,000 miles and its numerator the number of miles attributed to the consumer.
  4. If a manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer resells a motor vehicle that was returned pursuant to this Article or any other State's applicable law, regardless of whether there was any judicial determination that the motor vehicle had any defect or that it failed to conform to all express warranties, the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer shall disclose to the subsequent purchaser prior to the sale:
     
    1. That the motor vehicle was returned pursuant to this Article or pursuant to the applicable law of any other State; and
    2. The defect or condition or series of defects or conditions which substantially impaired the value of the motor vehicle to the consumer. Any subsequent purchaser who purchases the motor vehicle for resale with notice of the return, shall make the required disclosures to any person to whom he resells the motor vehicle. (1987, c. 385; 1989, c. 43, s. 1, c. 519, s. 1.)

§ North Carolina Lemon law 20-351.4. Affirmative defenses.

It is an affirmative defense to any claim under this Article that an alleged nonconformity or series of nonconformities are the result of abuse, neglect, odometer tampering by the consumer or unauthorized modifications or alterations of a motor vehicle. (1987, c. 385.)

§ North Carolina Lemon law 20-351.5. Presumption.

  1. It is presumed that a reasonable number of attempts have been undertaken to conform a motor vehicle to the applicable express warranties if:
     
    1. The same nonconformity has been presented for repair to the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer four or more times but the same nonconformity continues to exist; or
    2. The vehicle was out of service to the consumer during or while awaiting repair of the nonconformity or a series of nonconformities for a cumulative total of 20 or more business days during any 12-month period of the warranty, provided that the consumer has notified the manufacturer directly in writing of the existence of the nonconformity or series of nonconformities and allowed the manufacturer a reasonable period, not to exceed 15 calendar days, in which to correct the nonconformity or series of nonconformities. The manufacturer must clearly and conspicuously disclose to the consumer in the warranty or owners manual that written notification of a nonconformity is required before a consumer may be eligible for a refund or replacement of the vehicle and the manufacturer shall include in the warranty or owners manual the name and address where the written notification may be sent. Provided, further, that notice to the manufacturer shall not be required if the manufacturer fails to make the disclosures provided herein.
  2. The consumer may prove that a defect or condition substantially impairs the value of the motor vehicle to the consumer in a manner other than that set forth in subsection (a) of this section.
  3. The term of an express warranty, the one-year period, and the 20-day period shall be extended by any period of time during which repair services are not available to the consumer because of war, strike, or natural disaster. (1987, c. 385.)

§ North Carolina Lemon law 20-351.6. Civil action by the Attorney General.

Whenever, in his opinion, the interests of the public require it, it shall be the duty of the Attorney General upon his ascertaining that any of the provisions of this Article have been violated by the manufacturer to bring a civil action in the name of the State, or any officer or department thereof as provided by law, or in the name of the State on relation of the Attorney General. (1987, c. 385.)

§ North Carolina Lemon law  20-351.7. Civil action by the consumer.

A consumer injured by reason of any violation of the provisions of this Article may bring a civil action against the manufacturer; provided, however, the consumer has given the manufacturer written notice of his intent to bring an action against the manufacturer at least 10 days prior to filing such suit. Nothing in this section shall prevent a manufacturer from requiring a consumer to utilize an informal settlement procedure prior to litigation if that procedure substantially complies in design and operation with the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 USC § 2301 et seq., and regulations promulgated thereunder, and that requirement is written clearly and conspicuously, in the written warranty and any warranty instructions provided to the consumer. (1987, c. 385.)

§ North Carolina Lemon law 20-351.8. Remedies.

In any action brought under this Article, the court may grant as relief:
  1. A permanent or temporary injunction or other equitable relief as the court deems just;
  2. Monetary damages to the injured consumer in the amount fixed by the verdict. Such damages shall be trebled upon a finding that the manufacturer unreasonably refused to comply with G.S. 20-351.2 or G.S. 20-351.3. The jury may consider as damages all items listed for refund under G.S. 20-351.3;
  3. A reasonable attorney's fee for the attorney of the prevailing party, payable by the losing party, upon a finding by the court that: a. The manufacturer unreasonably failed or refused to fully resolve the matter which constitutes the basis of such action; or b. The party instituting the action knew, or should have known, the action was frivolous and malicious. (1987, c. 385.)

§North Carolina Lemon law  20-351.9. Dealership liability.

No authorized dealer shall be held liable by the manufacturer for any refunds or vehicle replacements in the absence of evidence indicating that dealership repairs have been carried out in a manner substantially inconsistent with the manufacturers' instructions. This Article does not create any cause of action by a consumer against an authorized dealer. (1987, c. 385.)

§ North Carolina Lemon law 20-351.10. Preservation of other remedies.

This Article does not limit the rights or remedies which are otherwise available to a consumer under any other law. (1987, c. 385.)

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a Federal Law that protects the buyer of any product which costs more than $25 and comes with an express written warranty. This law applies to any product that you buy that does not perform as it should.

Your car is a major investment, rationalized by the peace of mind that flows from its expected dependability and safety. Accordingly, you are entitled to expect an automobile properly constructed and regulated to provide reasonably safe, trouble-free, and dependable transportation – regardless of the exact make and model you bought. Unfortunately, sometimes these principles do not hold true and defects arise in automobiles. Although one defect is not actionable, repeated defects are as there exists a generally accepted rule that unsuccessful repair efforts render the warrantor liable. Simply put, there comes a time when “enough is enough” – when after having to take your car into the shop for repairs an inordinate number of times and experiencing all of the attendant inconvenience, you are entitled to say, ‘That’s all,’ and revoke, notwithstanding the seller’s repeated good faith efforts to fix the car. The rationale behind these basic principles is clear: once your faith in the vehicle is shaken, the vehicle loses its real value to you and becomes an instrument whose integrity is impaired and whose operation is fraught with apprehension. The question thus becomes when is “enough”?

As you know, enough is never enough from your warrantor’s point of view and you should simply continue to have your defective vehicle repaired – time and time again. However, you are not required to allow a warrantor to tinker with your vehicle indefinitely in the hope that it may eventually be fixed. Rather, you are entitled to expect your vehicle to be repaired within a reasonable opportunity. To this end, both the federal Moss Warranty Act, and the various state “lemon laws,” require repairs to your vehicle be performed within a reasonable opportunity.

Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a warrantor should perform adequate repairs in at least two, and possibly three, attempts to correct a particular defect. Further, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act’s reasonableness requirement applies to your vehicle as a whole rather than to each individual defect that arises. Although most of the Lemon Laws vary from state to state, each individual law usually require a warrantor to cure a specific defect within four to five attempts or the automobile as a whole within thirty days. If the warrantor fails to meet this obligation, most of the lemon laws provide for a full refund or new replacement vehicle. Further, this reasonable number of attempts/reasonable opportunity standard, whether it be that of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act or that of the Lemon Laws, is akin to strict liability – once this threshold has been met, the continued existence of a defect is irrelevant and you are still entitled to relief.

One of the most important parts of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is its fee shifting provision. This provision provides that you may recover the attorney fees incurred in the prosecution of your case if you are successful – independent of how much you actually win. That rational behind this fee shifting provision is to twofold: (1) to ensure you will be able to vindicate your rights without having to expend large sums on attorney's fees and (2) because automobile manufacturers are able to write off all expenses of defense as a legitimate business expense, whereas you, the average consumer, obviously does not have that kind of economic staying power. Most of the Lemon Laws contain similar fee shifting provisions.

You may also derive additional warranty rights from the Uniform Commercial Code; however, the Code does not allow you in most states to recover your attorney fees and is also not as consumer friendly as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act or the various state lemon laws.

The narrative information on Magnuson-Moss, UCC and North Carolina lemon laws on these pages is provided by Marshall Meyers, attorney.


Uniform Commercial Code Summary

The Uniform Commercial Code or UCC has been enacted in all 50 states and some of the territories of the United States. It is the primary source of law in all contracts dealing with the sale of products. The TARR refers to Tender, Acceptance, Rejection, Revocation and applies to different aspects of the consumer's "relationship" with the purchased goods.

TENDER - The tender provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code contained in Section2-601 provide that the buyer is entitled to reject any goods that fail in any respect to conform to the contract. Unfortunately, new cars are often technically complex and their innermost workings are beyond the understanding of the average new car buyer. The buyer, therefore, does not know whether the goods are then conforming.

ACCEPTANCE - The new car buyer accepts the goods believing and expecting that the manufacturer will repair any problem he has with the goods under the warranty.

REJECTION - The new car buyer may discover a problem with the vehicle within the first few miles of his purchase. This would allow the new car buyer to reject the goods. If the new car buyer discovers a defect in the car within a reasonable time to inspect the vehicle, he may reject the vehicle. This period is not defined. On the one hand, the buyer must be given a reasonable time to inspect and that reasonable time to inspect will be held as an acceptance of the vehicle. The Courts will decide this reasonable time to inspect based on the knowledge and experience of the buyer, the difficulty in discovering the defect, and the opportunity to discover the defect.
The following is an example of a case of rejection: Mr. Zabriskie purchase a new 1966 Chevrolet Biscayne. After picking up the car on Friday evening, while en route to his home 2.5 miles away, and within 7/10ths of a mile from the dealership, the car stalled and stalled again within 15 feet. Thereafter, the car would only drive in low gear. The buyer rejected the vehicle and stopped payment on his check. The dealer contended that the buyer could not reject the car because he had driven it around the block and that was his reasonable opportunity to inspect. The New Jersey Court said;

To the layman, the complicated mechanisms of today's automobile are a complete mystery. To have the automobile inspected by someone with sufficient expertise to disassemble the vehicle in order the discover latent defects before the contract is signed, is assuredly impossible and highly impractical. Consequently, the first few miles of driving become even more significant to the excited new car buyer. This is the buyer's first reasonable opportunity to enjoy his new vehicle to see if it conforms to what it was represented to be and whether he is getting what he bargained for. How long the buyer may drive the new car under the guise of inspection of new goods is not an issue in the present case because 7/10th of a mile is clearly within the ambit of a reasonable opportunity to inspect. Zabriskie Chevrolet, Inc. v. Smith, 240 A. 2d 195(1968)

It is suggested that Courts will tend to excuse use by consumers if possible.

REVOCATION - What happens when the consumer has used the new car for a lengthy period of time? This is the typical lemon car case. The UCC provides that a buyer may revoke his acceptance of goods whose non-conformity substantially impairs the value of the goods to him when he has accepted the goods without discovery of a non-conformity because it was difficult to discover or if he was assured that non-conformities would be repaired. Of course, the average new car buyer does not learn of the nonconformity until hundreds of thousands of miles later. And because quality is job one, and manufacturers are competing on the basis of their warranties, the consumer always is assured that any noncomformities he does discover will be remedied.
What is a noncomformity substantially impairing the value of the vehicle?

  1. A noncomformity may include a number of relatively minor defects whose cumulative total adds up to a substantial impairment. This is the "Shake Faith" Doctrine first stated in the Zabrisikie case. "For a majority of people the purchase of a new car is a major investment, rationalized by the peace of mind that flows from its dependability and safety. Once their faith is shaken, the vehicle loses not only its real value in their eyes, but becomes an instrument whose integrity is substantially impaired and whose operation is fraught with apprehension".
  2. A substantial noncomformity may include a failure or refusal to repair the goods under the warranty. In Durfee V. Rod Baxter Imports, the Minnesota Court held that the Saab owner that was plagued by a series of of annoying minor defects and stalling, which were never repaired after a number of attempts, could revoke, "if repairs are not successfully undertaken within a reasonable time", the consumer may elect to revoke.
  3. Substantial Non Conformity and Lemon Laws often define what may be considered a substantial impairment. These definitions have been successfully used to flesh out the substantial impairment in the UCC.

Additional narrative information on Magnusson-Moss, UCC and North Carolina lemon laws on these pages is provided by T. Michael Flinn, attorney.