Only a couple days after offering a polite no comment, Tesla is fighting back against a lemon-law lawsuit that could complicate the spread of its direct-selling formula in more states.
It says the accusation in a lawsuit by a lemon-law lawyer in Milwaukee are untrue and points a figure at a the owner of the car, a retired physician, hinting that he may have tampered with the vehicle. They also say he was involved in a previous lemon-law case involving a Volvo.
The lawsuit was filed by a Wisconsin lawyer who specializes in taking automakers to court over bad cars using states’ laws aimed at protecting customers from cars bought in the continual repairs involving the same issue, called “lemons.” Attorney Vince Megna says Tesla’s sales agreement is one of the strangest he’s ever encountered because he says it appears that it is aimed at making it hard to press lemon suits.
The case was brought on behalf of a Wisconsin man who alleges his Tesla has had lots of problems, some of which required it be towed away to far-away Chicago for repairs. The car has been in the shop for total of 66 days for issues involving its advanced battery, starting trouble and door handles that couldn’t be opened.
In interviews, Tesla officials deny key allegations by Megna. They say there is no confidentiality clauses in any sales agreements aimed at keeping settlements under wraps. The only confidentiality clause involves trying to protect the automaker’s trade secrets should any need to be divulged as the case proceeds. They also sayt that cases don’t necessarily need to be filed only in Tesla’s home state of California.
“On the location for any litigation, we would have no expectation that we would ask this customer to litigate a lemon law claim against us in California rather than Wisconsin. Our sales agreement does not provide for that and we would never take such a position regardless,” writes spokeswoman Liz Jarvis-Shean in an email to USA TODAY.
She also says Tesla’s customer agreement has been rewritten since Megna’s client bought his $94,770 Model S about a year ago.
Though only a single case, the Wisconsin case inadvertently raises questions about whether consumers maintain their lemon-law rights if they buy a car directly from Tesla rather than from a traditional dealer. Tesla is battling in several states, including a highly publicized case in New Jersey, to sell directly to the public.
In a blog post Wednesday on its website, Tesla questions Megna’s motivations and says the Tesla service team “did everything reasonably possible” to help the customer. And in an unusual move, it hints that the customer may have sabotaged the car prior to filing the case.
The blog post notes the allegation that the Tesla’s fuse blew three separate times. Each time, Tesla engineers were unable to find a problem, but replaced some parts anyway to try to prevent it from happening again.
“When the fuse kept blowing despite the new parts, and faced with no diagnosis showing anything wrong with the car, the engineers were moved to consider the possibility that the fuse had been tampered with,” Tesla says. “After investigating, they determined that the car’s front trunk had been opened immediately before the fuse failure on each of the three occasions. (The fuse is accessed through the front trunk.) Ultimately, Tesla service applied non-tamper tape to the fuse switch. From that point on, the fuse performed flawlessly.”
Megna denies his client tampered with fuses on the car to create problems, calling it “a brutal attack on a doctor, a retired It’s a brutal attack on a doctor, a retired colonel. It’s reprehensible.”
Tesla says it supports lemon laws, which can force an automaker to buy back a car that repeatedly is brought in to repair the same problem. But “we would also like the public to be aware of the potential for lemon laws to be exploited by opportunistic lawyers.”
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Tesla fingers owner in lemon-law counterattack – USA TODAY
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