Senate Committee Considers Changes to Wisconsin’s Lemon Law

The Wisconsin Senate Committee on Transportation, Public Safety, and Veterans and Military Affairs will today vote on long-needed changes to Wisconsin’s Lemon Law.

Wisconsin is universally known among automobile, motorcycle, truck, and recreational vehicle manufacturers as having the worst lemon law in the country. The law places unreasonable and unworkable requirements on vehicle manufacturers that allow lawyers like self-proclaimed “Lemon Law King,” Vince Megna, to win exorbitant awards that have no nexus to fairness or the underlying goals of the law. For example, in Marquez v. Mercedes-Benz, a vehicle that cost $56,000 resulted in a $618,000 award, with over $300,000 in attorney fees.

Wisconsin is the only state in the nation to provide for mandatory double damages under a lemon law, which is the main reason for our poor lemon law reputation. Under Wisconsin’s Lemon Law, if the manufacturer fails to provide a comparable vehicle or refund for a “lemon” within 30 days of the vehicle owner’s request, which is often impossible, the law requires the courts to award him or her double any pecuniary loss, together with costs, disbursements and reasonable attorney fees. The courts have interpreted “pecuniary” loss to include the vehicle’s purchase price.

SB 182 makes several significant changes to Wisconsin’s law, as outlined in this memo from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and other supporters, but paramount is the elimination of the punitive double damages mandate. With these changes, the law continues to provide remedies to the consumer while making Wisconsin’s business climate less hostile.

The Wisconsin Assembly voted 88-8 in favor of an identical bill, AB 200. For more information about the lemon law legislation, please visit the Wisconsin Civil Justice Council’s website.