Wisconsin DOT sought advice from lemon law opponent – Pioneer Press

MADISON, Wis. — A top attorney for the state Department of Transportation sought advice on interpreting a new motor vehicle lemon law from a lawyer who tried to stop the changes in the Legislature, arguing they made it difficult for consumers to successfully sue car dealers and manufacturers.

Milwaukee attorney Vince Megna, a self-proclaimed “Lemon Law King,” declined this week to help the DOT attorney answer questions about the law’s intent. Megna said he’s likely to sue under the “God awful” law and wanted to avoid a potential conflict.

“Any involvement could lead to cries by the manufacturers and/or defense attorneys that I participated in helping to direct the very provisions that I am now challenging,” Megna wrote in an email sent Sunday to the DOT attorney. He provided a copy to the Associated Press.

DOT assistant general counsel John Sobotik confirmed he had reached out to Megna and others with questions about the law. He referred additional questions to another DOT official, John Fandrich, who did not immediately respond to questions emailed Tuesday.

Megna said in a telephone interview that he was surprised a DOT attorney sought his opinion, given his opposition to the law. The DOT did not take a position on the law, but it is responsible for administering key portions, including making forms available for lemon law claims.

“I got the feeling nobody knew what this law was all about,” Megna said, adding that he believes a form posted on the DOT website this week is inaccurate.

Sobotik emailed Megna multiple questions on April 25, including a request for Megna’s read on a provision requiring vehicle owners to use a specific DOT form to report a lemon to manufacturers.

“In my personal opinion, this provision may virtually gut the law,” Sobotik wrote to Megna. “What consumer is going to know he/she has to provide a silly WisDOT form to a manufacturer in order for the Lemon Law to apply to repairs they have done?”

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the new law last year with broad bipartisan support and the backing of car dealers and manufacturers, including General Motors, trial attorneys and the state chamber of commerce.

The revised lemon law applies to new vehicles on which the manufacturer fails to repair a warranty-covered defect even after four tries in one year, or fails to provide a timely refund or replacement. Previously, car owners had six years to sue the carmaker, with mandatory double damages. Now they have three years, and they can only get actual damages.

Megna spoke out against the changes on a variety of grounds, including the three-year cutoff to bring lawsuits. He has filed more than 3,000 lemon law cases over the past 25 years and won a $618,000 judgment in a 2012 lemon law case against Mercedes-Benz USA LLC. Megna has irritated Republicans by posting a series of satirical videos targeting Gov. Scott Walker and others, including the lemon law bill sponsor, Rep. Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha.

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Wisconsin DOT sought advice from lemon law opponent – Pioneer Press

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Tesla moves WI lemon law case over luxury electric car to federal court – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (blog)

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May 2, 2014





Lawyers for luxury electric car maker Tesla Motors have moved a Wisconsin lawsuit against it into federal court after the plaintiff, a Franklin physician and retired Army officer, rejected a settlement offer.

Robert Montgomery filed the first-ever lemon law claim against Tesla last month, and that drew national publicity because of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company’s current status as a Wall Street darling and litigation in other states over its direct-sales model that avoids traditional dealerships.

Self-proclaimed lemon law king Vince Megna represents Montgomery. After Tesla’s company blog suggested Montgomery’s own tampering may have caused some of the problems cited in his suit, Megna put out a public offer of settlement. He said recently that Tesla responded with an offer about $16,000 less than the $108, 622 Megna demanded.

On Thursday, Tesla — now represented in Wisconsin by the law firm Michael Best & Friedrich — filed a “notice of removal,” seeking to move the litigation to U.S. District Court in Milwaukee  because the dispute is between parties of different states.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman.


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      Tesla moves WI lemon law case over luxury electric car to federal court – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (blog)

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    1. More used-car dealers sour over lemon law – Straits Times

      More used-car dealers are crying foul over a law meant to protect consumers, claiming that some are abusing it to demand the replacement of vehicle parts worn down by age.

      Just six months after the lemon law was implemented in September 2012, complaints on defective goods in the motorcar industry jumped fivefold to 98 cases, compared to just 19 cases six months earlier, said the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case).

      It has since handled 302 complaints linked to the motorcar industry under the lemon law, which compels businesses to repair or replace a product found to be defective within six months.

      But some used-car sellers claim that some consumers are abusing the law.

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      Toyota Agrees to Pay Record $1.2 Billion Fine for Covering-Up Safety Defects in its Vehicles

      On March 19, 2014, the United States Attorney General, Eric Holder, announced a record breaking fine imposed upon Toyota Motor Corporation regarding its cover-up of safety defects in Toyota vehicles that led to widespread incidents of unintended vehicle acceleration. As noted by Attorney General Holder, the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal investigation revealed that, “rather than promptly disclosing and correcting safety issues about which they were aware, Toyota made misleading public statements to consumers and gave inaccurate facts to Members of Congress.”  [The entirety of Attorney General Holder’s March 19, 2014 remarks may be found at http://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/ag/speeches/2014/ag-speech-140319.html].  

      The Justice Department further noted that Toyota was aware that there was a serious safety issue that led to widespread documented incidents and tragic accidents, some of which resulted in death. To resolve the investigation, Toyota agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine, which as noted by Attorney General Holder “represents the largest criminal penalty imposed on a car company in U.S. history.” The fine was imposed to not only punish Toyota for its illegal and deceptive conduct but also to send a message that “other car companies should not repeat Toyota’s mistake,” remarked Holder. 

      In his press conference announcing this record breaking fine, Attorney General Holder made clear that the general public should have the right to feel confident that they are safe when they get behind the wheel. Moreover, car manufacturers should be transparent with the information that they learn about their vehicles and not delay in announcing important safety recalls. By violating these basic principles, Attorney General Holder noted,

      “Put simply, Toyota’s conduct was shameful. It showed a blatant disregard for systems and laws designed to look after the safety of consumers. By the company’s own admission, it protected its brand ahead of its own customers. This constitutes a clear and reprehensible abuse of the public trust.”

      Importantly, the Justice Department’s announcement reaffirms that the federal government is committed to making sure that motor vehicles are safe. This commitment has been long rooted not only in the actions of federal agencies charged with ensuring the public safety, but also the United States Congress has enacted laws to further protect the public. For instance, in 1975, Congress enacted the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a consumer protection remedial statute aimed at making consumer warranties more readily enforceable. Per the federal Act, warrantors of consumer products, including cars, trucks, vans, SUV’s, motorcycles, etc., must comply with the obligations in their warranties within a reasonable time. Therefore, automobile manufacturers do not have an unlimited amount of time to fix defects and non-conformities in their vehicles.  Additionally, every state has enacted their own lemon law provisions which supplement the protections afforded by the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Notably, these laws generally provide that should the consumer prevail in advancing a claim against an automobile manufacturer for failing to repair a defect that the automobile manufacturer must pay for the consumer’s attorneys’ fees and costs. 

      Accordingly, whether you have experienced a serious safety defect like those for which Toyota was penalized or any other type of defect in your vehicle, you may have rights under federal or state lemon laws. The experienced attorneys at Krohn and Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center ® have successfully handled over 35,000 lemon law claims since 1995. We offer a FREE CASE REVIEW for you to assess whether we can assist you with your lemon car, truck, SUV, or other vehicle and a free and quick Lemon Law case evaluator. Please do not hesitate to contact us toll free at 1-800-875-3666 or visit our website at http://www.yourlemonlawrights.com.

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      Toyota Agrees to Pay Record $1.2 Billion Fine for Covering-Up Safety Defects in its Vehicles

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      Tesla fingers owner in lemon-law counterattack – USA TODAY

      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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