Louisiana's superior law - "lemon law" versus "redhibition".
by Fred A. Pharis, J.D.
I have represented hundreds of consumers in what are commonly referred to as "lemon law" claims. And, Louisiana does have a law that substantially tracks what other states developed in the last thirty or forty years as a set of automobile consumer laws . Many persons who call my office have read up on the Louisiana "lemon law", or have had its provisions often (incorrectly) cited to them by manufacturer's representatives or dealership employees, as they attempt to apply the technical rules of our so-called "lemon law".
Unfortunately, the Louisiana "lemon law" was amended several years ago that lengthens the time that a vehicle must be out of service from thirty to ninety days! This regressive provision was pushed through, I would guess, by a legislator who thinks he's being a friend to manufacturers.
Fortunately, in Louisiana, we have much better set of laws, with bigger "teeth" in it, which is ignored by most manufacturers and dealers, especially when they tell you you have no rights. It is important for you to know about Louisiana's best consumer law, the law of "Redhibition".
Redhibition is a legal term of French root origin which simply means avoidance of a sale on account of hidden defects. It applies to anything you buy. If you buy something that has hidden defects that make the use of it so inconvenient that it must be presumed that you wouldn't have purchased it had you known of the defects prior to the sale, you may file a claim to "rescind", or undo, the sale. If the problems aren't so severe as to warrant a rescission of the sale, the court may award a reduction of the purchase price, a partial refund of the purchase price. With a reduction, you still must pay the financer in accordance with your financing agreement, but there's a cash settlement the manufacturer must give you.
The consumer's responsibility in a "redhibition" claim is much less technical than the "lemon law"'s requirements of a certain number of days or repair attempts and proving "nonconformance to an express warranty", whatever that means. Under redhibition, a consumer merely need give notice and a reasonable opportunity to repair to the seller and the manufacturer. In automobile, mobile home, lawnmower, boat, and equipment cases, this is fairly easy, since you merely bring it to the seller, who is usually a factory authorized repair facility, so two birds are killed with one stone.
As long as the consumer gives the "reasonable" attempts to repair (notice, no minimum number of times requirement), he or she can file a claim or suit when it's not fixed right. As a practical matter, my office advises consumers to go back to the dealer as long as he is willing to attempt a repair, especially if a vehicle or other item is relatively new. In other words, do not "jump" on a chance for a claim within the first few thousand miles of a vehicles life if the dealer hasn't exhausted his repair remedies. That would be unreasonable.
However, when it's clear that the end of the rope is near, consult an attorney if the repairs have either 1) not fixed the problem, 2) apparently fixed the major problem, but there are other problems that cause excessive repairs, or 3) you've been induced to repair and repair again over a long period of time with no end in sight.
Under the redhibition laws, you must merely prove that the item failed to operate in the intended manner during normal use and that you have given the seller and manufacturer notice and reasonable repair attempts. It is that simple. No minimum number of repairs, no minimum days out of service.
So, don't get discouraged and don't let some out of state 800-number corporocrat argue the "lemon law" with you. Stay within the principles set forth in What to do when you buy a lemon in Louisiana, and do the right thing.
Fred A. Pharis*Pharis Law Offices*831 DeSoto St.*Alexandria, LA 71301*(318) 445-8266
Copyright: Fred A. Pharis, Pharis Law Offices, 2008