So far in this series, we have determined that the Indiana Motor Vehicle Protection Act, Indiana’s lemon law, is the least consumer friendly of our neighboring states’ lemon laws with regard to: the deduction the manufacturer receives for the mileage on a vehicle in a buyback situation (Part 1) and the kind of vehicles to which the law applies (Part 2). This time, let’s take a look at what’s called the “term of protection,” which is the period of time the law applies following a new car purchase.
Indiana’s lemon law is straightforward. Indiana Code 24-5-13-7 states that the term of protection begins on the date the vehicle is delivered to the buyer, and expires eighteen months from that date or when the car has been driven 18,000 following delivery, whichever comes first. Fine, you say, but what has to happen within the term of protection? Does my lemon lawsuit have to be filed within that time? No, it does not.
Indiana Code 24-5-13-8 makes it (mostly) clear that if the buyer first reports the particular repair issue within the term of protection, then the vehicle can subsequently be deemed a lemon based on that particular repair issue even though the vehicle actually becomes a lemon (four unsuccessful repair attempts or 30 or more days out of service) outside the term of protection. So it’s only critical that the repair issue manifest itself within the term of protection (and get reported to the dealer). Then, the only other limitation is that the lemon lawsuit be filed within two years of the first repair attempt.
If the repair issue does not first manifest itself within the term of protection, the buyer does not have a lemon law claim in Indiana. However, if the repair issue manifests itself outside the term of protection but within the term of the manufacturer’s warranty, the buyer may still have a claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act.
Let’s take a look at the term of protection in other states.
In Illinois, the term of protection is called the “statutory warranty period.” Surprisingly, it is significantly more restrictive that Indiana’s lemon law. The statutory warranty period in Illinois is 12 months or 12,000 miles. But importantly, for the lemon law to be violated, the vehicle must be subject to four repairs or out of service for at least 30 days within the statutory warranty period.
Interestingly, Michigan has no mileage limitation. The repair issue must be reported within a year. The vehicle is then presumed a lemon if there are three more unsuccessful repairs within the next two years. Michigan also presumes the vehicle a lemon if it has been out of service for 30 or more days, but only if that occurs in the first year.
The term of protection under Ohio’s lemon law is twelve months or 18,000 miles from the date of delivery, whichever comes first. The repair issue need only be initially reported during the term of protection. In what seems like a strange twist, at least to me, and one certainly favorable to consumers in Ohio, a lawsuit under Ohio’s lemon law must be brought within two years of the expiration of the manufacturer’s express warranty term. For some manufacturers (like Hyundai, for example) that could be a long time. There’s another twist, too, that appears to make Ohio’s law unique. To prove a violation of the statute, the buyer must show that the repair issue substantially impairs the use, safety, or value of the motor vehicle to the consumer after a reasonable number of repair attempts. A reasonable number of repair attempts is presumed to have been undertaken if there have been three unsuccessful repair attempts or the vehicle has been out of service for at least 30 days, either of which must have occurred during the term of protection. I don’t practice in Ohio, but it sure appears to me that if some of the attempts or time out of service occurs outside the term of protection, a buyer can still prove they have a lemon; the buyer just doesn’t get to take advantage of the presumption and must prove that a reasonable number of repair attempts were undertaken. Interesting.
Kentucky law is identical to Illinois law on the term of protection. Four unsuccessful repair attempts or 30 days out of service must occur within 12 months or 12,000 miles (whichever comes first).
This time, it appears that Indiana’s lemon law is the MOST favorable to consumers of all our neighboring states. The bottom line is that Indiana’s lemon law protects new car purchasers longer than the other states’ lemon laws. That’s a good thing. I was beginning to get really down on Indiana’s version!
One final comment of interest to attorneys. I noticed that the other states all use a presumption for a reasonable number of repair attempts, i.e.: If there are four unsuccessful attempts, it shall be presumed that a reasonable number of repair attempts has been undertaken. I don’t know the other states’ law, but to me that means that the presumption is rebuttable. I think that would be a tough row to hoe for a manufacturer, but I suppose in certain circumstances the manufacturer could argue that it should have been given one more chance to get it right. The presumption language does not exist in Indiana. The word “considered” is in place of presumed, which effectively makes it a conclusive presumption. This means that four unsuccessful attempts (amongst other requirements) equals a lemon. I’d be surprised if this issue virtually ever gets raised in the other states.