Lemon Law Amendment Gains Momentum In Legislature


The most recent attempt to change Wisconsin’s so-called “lemon law” is gaining traction.

In 1983, the state passed one of the country’s strongest consumer protection laws for vehicles under warranty that don’t work. Repeated attempts to change the law protecting new vehicle owners failed in the past.

But a new bill has already passed the Assembly and received a public hearing by a Senate committee. Moreover, the revised bill now has the support of one of its biggest critics: trial attorneys.

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But Rick Soletski, a retired lemon law expert who worked for the Department of Transportation (DOT), says it’s still a bad bill for consumers. He says eliminating double damages removes the incentive for manufacturers to do right by a consumer.

“If the manufacturer misjudges and goes to court to defend a lemon, they should receive a penalty for that,” says Soletski.

The author of the Senate bill, Jerry Petrowski, R-Wausau, says lemon law attorneys were “playing games” with manufacturers to get double damages. He says consumers will still be made whole.

“Under this bill, the primary remedy if a motor vehicle is deemed a lemon remains intact,” says Petrowski.

Under the bill, consumers would still be able to get a refund or comparable vehicle. They would have to wait longer: 45 days instead of 30. For commercial trucks it would be 120 days.

Consumers would also have to fill out a DOT form which former DOT worker Soletski says is unnecessary.

“If the new DOT form isn’t filled out exactly right, it can be sent back to the consumer and the clock doesn’t begin ticking,” he says. “It seems more like a mechanism for ‘gotcha’ than a sound requirement.”

Soletski says manufacturers already have the information required in the form.