By on January 22, 2016

A Florida Lemon Law board ruled this week that Volkswagen would have to pay an 86-year-old man $15,000 for his illegally polluting diesel, WPTV reported.

The man’s Volkswagen — which VW lawyers unsuccessfully argued wasn’t a lemon because it still ran and drove — could prompt others to file similar lemon law claims against the automaker, but may fall short of sparking a grassroots buy-back campaign in other states.

“A Florida Court order isn’t binding on any other state but can be ‘persuasive authority,’” Colorado Lemon Law attorney Rick Wynkoop said. Florida’s Lemon Law process is pretty unique because it requires an arbiter’s ruling first, but can be appealed in court.

“An arbiter’s order has next-to-zero weight. I’m not joking when I tell you that arbiters are not required to follow the law,” Wynkoop added.

Wynkoop said that he hadn’t yet read the Florida order, but that it would be tough to unilaterally apply the ruling to other cases. Even in Florida, a different board turned down another owner’s request to have Volkswagen buy back a car, according to WPTV.

So, the Florida board’s ruling may not have much weight beyond its four walls, but at least progress is progress. Right?

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14 Comments on “No, Florida’s Lemon Law Ruling Probably Won’t Be a Big Deal...”

  • avatar
    Buford T. Justice

    Interested to hear what Steve Lehto has to say about this. I also like that some manufacturers are pushing customers toward arbitration (Chrysler), but the moment they loose….off to court, arbitration means nothing.

  • avatar

    Best not put down a down payment on anything yet. VW will move this to civil court and drag it out. Given his present age of 86, I hope Mr. Melnyk lives long enough to collect.

    Expect to hear argument as to whether the car’s emissions constitutes a “lemon” under the law, as it does not affect drivability and the owner has not lost the use of the car.

    I also wonder if the arbitration board exceeded their authority by deciding by their own formula that the remedy should be $15,000. Florida lemon law remedy options are refund or replace.

  • avatar

    I hope the lemon law ruling is upheld on appeal, but if not this seems a straight-up case of fraud. VW claimed the cars they sold complied, and they knew that wasn’t true.

    The Feds could force the issue by revoking the certification of these non-compliant cars, just as they did with the cars VW hadn’t sold yet. But that would cause collateral damage to consumers.

    The advantage of doing this through lemon law is that the consumer gets their purchase price back.

    • 0 avatar

      “this seems a straight-up case of fraud”
      The lemon law was not written to be a remedy against fraud. The board of arbitration has no authority to adjudicate such complaints, and the state courts will probably zealously protect their purview.

      Cars are registered by the owners in the states. The only Federal license plates are on cars that belong to the GSA. Just as the Feds can’t revoke your driver’s licence [except for CDL], they can’t pull your car off the road. Attempting to do so would raise questions of 5th Amendment takings and make this a whole lot more complicated than the administration has any taste for.

      “the consumer gets their purchase price back”
      VW never sold a TDI for $15,000. So VW will question the formula by which the board came to that number. Especially since the car can’t be more than 2 years old and likely will have its problem resolved with software. If the resolution is to be something less than full purchase price, maybe they’ll say the owner should be comped for extra DEF, or $1000 of lost resale value.

  • avatar

    VW has seriously underestimated the “death by a thousand cuts” that is the USA’s legal system
    They will save $ by leaving now and not coming back.

  • avatar

    When this scandal first broke I predicted that it would become the mother of all Lemon Laws cases. Seems like first blood has been drawn.

    Normally I might feel sorry for a company caught in our legal system, but in this case VW created the problem and is completely bungling their response. Large German corporations have earned a reputation for unbelievable arrogance.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    When you buy just about anything these days, you sign an agreement saying you will settle disputes through arbitration instead of the courts.

    This is what can happen. It would have been a lot cheaper for VW if the guy had sued instead.

  • avatar

    I think Judy there has always been an arbitrator. I’m not sure how she gets away with applying the title of Judge to herself – unless she’s changed her first name to be Judge.

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