Tractor Trailer lemon laws

January 9, 2011

The Missouri lemon law specifically excludes “commercial motor vehicles,” and most tractor trailers are used for a commercial purpose.

Similarly, the federal lemon law only applies to products “normally used for personal, family, or household purposes,” though that phrase does leave some wiggle room.

Only in Wisconsin does the state lemon laws apply to tractor trailers, where there have been other big verdicts in the past.

The idea seemed to be that individuals need the attorney fee-shifting found in the lemon laws, while commercial ventures do not need the same economic lift. Unfortunately, that is rarely true, as many private lessees and owner-operators of tractor trailers do not have their own attorney or cannot afford an attorney’s hourly rate. Losing even a few days because of repair attempts can be the difference between profitability and disaster.

In Missouri, we rely on the Uniform Commercial Code to provide at least some legal protection. The Uniform Commercial Code provides for “implied warranties” as well as a more traditional breach of contract. If the tractor trailer was repaired under a warranty, but was not fully and finally fixed, then the warrantor has not lived up to its obligation. The warranty may not guarantee a perfect vehicle, but if it promises a fix a defect, that means the vehicle should not have similar or additional problems after a repair attempt.

The damages for these cases is still the difference between what you actually paid for your vehicle, and what you would have paid, back at the time of purchase, if you had known then what you know now about your vehicle.

An attorney, like Law Office of Bryan Brody, can still handle the case on a contingent basis, but the fees would have to be subtracted from what the consumer would otherwise be owed, because there is no provision for making the manufacturer or warrantor pay your attorney’s fees. The good news is that if the facts of the case are good enough and the price of the tractor trailer is high enough, then it should make it worthwhile it to pursue a case.

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