Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Indiana's Lemon Law Applies to Used Cars- Misinformation on Indiana Attorney General's Website

In preparation for a client this morning who bought a lemon used car, I did some research into Indiana's Lemon Law. My understanding of the law was that it only applied to new cars. That impression had mostly come from the Indiana Attorney General's Office. I was in fact a Deputy Attorney General when the law originally passed.

If you look at the AG's consumer protection website, here is what it says the Lemon Law covers:

Did you buy or lease for personal use:

A car or light truck?
Within the last 18 months?
With less than 18,000 miles?
From an Indiana dealer?

If you answered yes to these questions, your vehicle may be covered by the Lemon Law.
That website leaves the clear impression that if you buy a car with more than 18,000 miles or more than 18 months old, you can't make a claim under Indiana's Lemon Law.

Ah, but here's the hitch. Indiana's Lemon Law does not say that.

The Lemon Law statutes fall under IC 24-5-13 et seq.

Look at these statutes:

IC 24-5-13-1: Application of chapter Sec. 1. This chapter applies to all motor vehicles that are sold, leased, transferred, or replaced by a dealer or manufacturer in Indiana.
IC 24-5-13-3"Buyer" defined Sec. 3. As used in this chapter, "buyer" means any person who, for purposes other than resale or sublease, enters into an agreement or contract within Indiana for the transfer, lease, or purchase of a motor vehicle covered under this chapter.
IC 24-5-13-5"Motor vehicle" and "vehicle" defined Sec. 5. As used in this chapter, "motor vehicle" or "vehicle" means any self-propelled vehicle that:
(1) has a declared gross vehicle weight of less than ten thousand (10,000)
(2) is sold to:

(A) a buyer in Indiana and registered in Indiana; or
(B) a buyer in Indiana who is not an Indiana
resident (as defined in IC 9-13-2-78);

(3) is intended primarily for use and operation on public highways; and
(4) is required to be registered or licensed before use or operation. The term does not include conversion vans, motor homes, farm tractors, and other machines used in the actual production, harvesting, and care of farm products, road building equipment, truck tractors, road tractors, motorcycles, mopeds, snowmobiles, or vehicles designed primarily for offroad use.


Nowhere in any of the statutes does it say the law only applies to a buyer of a "new" car. Where does the 18 month/18,000 mile language cited by the Attorney General come from then? Take a look at IC 24-5-13-7:

Sec. 7. As used in this chapter, "term of protection" means a period of time that:

(1) begins:

(A) on the date of original delivery of a motor vehicle to a buyer; or
(B) in the case of a replacement vehicle provided by a manufacturer to a buyer under this chapter, on the date of delivery of the replacement vehicle to the buyer; and

(2) ends the earlier of:
(A) eighteen (18) months after the date identified under subdivision (1); or
(B) the time the motor vehicle has been driven eighteen thousand (18,000) miles after the date identified under subdivision (1).
Read the above statute closely. The "term of protection" under the Lemon Law runs 18 months/18,000 miles (whichever comes first) from the time the person receives the car. That section does not say the lemon law protection applies only to a car with less 18,000 miles on it or less than 18 months old. To interpret it that way is to totally misread the express language of the statute.

I read the other statutes in the chapter; none I can find say Indiana's Lemon law is limited to "new" cars, which is exactly the way I believe the Attorney General's Office has been interpreting and applying the law for 20 years.

One of the most amazing things about law is how everybody can think the law says one thing, yet nobody bothers to read the actual statutes. If indeed my reading of the law is correct, the Attorney General's Office needs to correct misinformation on its website as well as adjust its handling of consumer complaints that are being dismissed because the cars Hoosiers are complaining about are used.

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