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Rozgonyi v. Ford Motor Company

OAL Dkt. No. CMA-3027-03 (Division of Community Affairs 2003)

AUTOMOBILES; LEMON LAW—Automobile lemon law claims must be based on defects having a substantial impact on the use, value or safety of a vehicle and even very noisy rattles and creaks do not rise to that level.

A truck buyer complained about a loud rattle coming from the door area of a vehicle. An expert witness introduced by the buyer confirmed the rattle and creaking, characterizing the noise as excessive and constant. He conceded “that the noise did not negatively impact upon the safety or use of the vehicle but, in his opinion, might adversely affect the value of the vehicle.” The Administrative Law Judge believed that the noise was “annoying and loud” and would adversely affect the fair market value of the vehicle. Unfortunately for the buyer, “[t]he Lemon Law was not designed to provide remedies for every problem with a motor vehicle. A ‘Lemon’ is not any automobile which has some ‘defect’. Only such defects which qualify as ‘nonconformities’ in accordance with the definition contained [in the Lemon Law] qualify for treatment as a lemon.” The law deals with defects which have “substantial impact” on the “use, value or safety” of the vehicle. According to the New Jersey Supreme Court, “[a] substantial impairment is based upon an objective evaluation rather than upon a subjective test of whether the buyer believed the valued [sic] was substantially impaired.” As a result, the Administrative Law Judge concluded that there was “no contention that it was a safety factor or a diminished use factor” so it concluded that the buyer had failed to prove his case.

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