Father and son win $293,000 verdict in semi-truck Lemon Law case

Wisconsin has the only state Lemon Law that covers semi-tractor trucks, and the Seemans of Janesville couldn’t be happier.

A federal jury recently awarded them $293,000 under that law for a defective rig that contributed to the failure of their small business, Jewell Trucking. Their attorney, Lemon Law expert Vince Megna of Waukesha, said it was the largest jury award in semi-truck Lemon Law case.

“Truck drivers aren’t millionaires,” Megna said. ” It’s a tough job for them to make money. When their trucks go down, it’s catastrophic.”

He said he can hardly believe other states’ Lemon Laws don’t cover trucks bought by owner-operators, and hopes the verdict might bring some attention to exanding that protection.

 “We get calls every week from drivers who bought trucks in other states, but we can’t help them.”

Randy Seeman and his son Jason, spent $177,000 on a new Western Star truck in 2007. They used it to haul sand, gravel and salt around Wisconsin and Iowa. For six weeks, it ran like a charm but in November that year, it lost power. The Seemans took the truck to authorized Detroit Diesel dealers all over the state, but the engine problems were never fully corrected.

They asked Freightliner, which owns Western Star, for a refund under the Lemon Law, but got no response, Megna said, and ultimately filed a lawsuit. An federal jury heard the case in Madison in November and found for Jewell Trucking.

The Lemon Law allows for a recovery of twice the purchase price plus interest payments if the case goes to trial. In addition, the court entered judgment for $225,000 in legal fees to Megna, who discusses the case in more detail in this video.

Meanwhile, the truck remains parked in Janesville, and the Seemans have returned to driving for other companies. Megna said the defective semi wasn’t the sole cause of Jewell Trucking’s demise.

“The business just didn’t make it, but this truck didn’t help.”