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Brown v. Merit Auto

A-6822-01T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

AUTOMOBILES; LEMON LAW; CONSUMER FRAUD—A car buyer can seek relief under the Consumer Fraud Act when the vehicle is too old or has too much mileage to be covered by the Lemon Law.

A used car buyer successfully sued a dealer, proving the dealer misrepresented the actual mileage on the car and that the buyer purchased the car without knowledge that the odometer was inaccurate. The lower court also determined the dealer’s conduct to be in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, and it awarded the buyer the difference between the amount she paid for the car and the amount she received when it was traded in elsewhere. It then tripled the damage under the Consumer Fraud Act. The dealer appealed unsuccessfully. It argued that the New Jersey Lemon Law should have been applied and that the damages awarded to the buyer under the Consumer Fraud Act were inconsistent with the relief to be awarded under New Jersey’s “Lemon Law.” The Court rejected the dealer’s argument because the Lemon Law did not apply to this case. It only applies to defects in the first 18,000 miles of operation or the two year period after the date of original delivery to a consumer. Since the car was more than two years old with 78,000 miles on it, the buyer had no remedy under the Lemon Law. She did, however, have a cause of action under the Consumer Fraud Act.

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