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WI Attorney: Don’t Change Our Lemon Law

Wisconsinís Lemon Law, which has been on the books since the 80s, is said to be one of the best in the nation.
Wisconsinís Lemon Law, which has been on the books since the 80s, is said to be one of the best in the nation.
May 21, 2013

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin's Lemon Law, which has been on the books since the '80s, is said to be one of the best in the nation. If you plunk down your hard-earned dollars for a new car and it turns out to be a lemon, you get a prompt refund or replacement. But Republican lawmakers are considering a proposal that would substantially weaken the state's Lemon Law, and Madison attorney Terrence Polich regards that as a very bad idea.

"Before there were lemon laws, you wouldn't get a refund," the lawyer recalled. "You wouldn't get taken care of by the manufacturer when you had a lemon. That's why we had to pass the Lemon Law. They would just tell you, 'Too bad, so sad.' They didn't care before. Now the Lemon Law means they have to care."

State Senator Jerry Petrowski and Representative Bill Kramer want to repeal the requirement that the manufacturer must respond with a refund or replacement within 30 days, or pay the consumer double damages. According to attorney Polich, however, this is a solution in search of a problem.

"You very seldom have to sue under the Lemon Law now, and when you do, those cases are almost always resolved quickly," he said. "I can tell you, I haven't had a trial in a Lemon Law case in years. I have found really that I'm doing fewer and fewer Lemon Law cases overall."

Polich said that's because the present law is working so well. You can seek Lemon Law relief on your own in Wisconsin, without a lawyer. There's even a form and instructions put out by the DMV to make it easier.

The balance of power between the consumer and the manufacturer is just as it should be right now, said Polich.

"And if you change that balance and that formula and give the manufacturer more power, it'll be just like the bad old days when they could starve you out, they could litigate to the ends of the earth," he declared. "If you did file a lawsuit against the car manufacturer, you would end up paying more to your attorney than you would be able to recover."

Polich said the Lemon Law is one of the main reasons cars are so much more reliable than they were in the '80s, when the law was passed.

The proposal is AB200.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI