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Home > The Bad Truck: A Tale of Two Remedies

The Bad Truck: A Tale of Two Remedies

A highly trained and talented farrier, who put horseshoes on Olympic hopefuls in Florida and New York, needed a pickup truck to ply his trade. He pulled a small farrier’s trailer containing a furnace, grinding machines, hand tools, along with shoes of all sizes, types and materials. He hauled not only nails for the shoes, but glue, for use on racehorses. It was not a big truck, but after a ten-year apprenticeship and five years of being in business, his reputation and his following were growing. He decided to buy a new truck – a big one like the ones owners of the horses drove. The new truck was a demonstration to his clients that he was successful, and it was a reward for building his business and for securing these important clients.

The 2003 Ford F350 King Ranch pickup truck is a big, luxurious, leather-seated, all-power model which offered a $5,000 optional 6.0 liter turbo diesel engine, coupled with a new transmission. The farrier ordered and bought one of the first to be available. Unfortunately, the new truck had a bad motor. Ford received 12,000 complaints concerning the motor, and eventually made 500 design changes to the motor. In 2004 Ford recalled the truck for two problems that could cause the motor to stall and not restart, which Ford explained could result in a crash.

In the first year that the farrier owned the truck, it was in the shop 9 times for a total of 30 days, for stalling and failing to restart. The engine problems were causing him to miss appointments at stables where 25-40 horse owners were waiting for their highly prized horses to get new shoes. The problems were making the farrier seem unreliable. He was so concerned about the impact the truck’s mechanical problems were having on his business that after the 9th serious failure, the farrier telephoned the Dealer and demanded a replacement. Instead of replacing the truck under the Lemon Law, the Dealer just traded him out of the old truck and into a new, more expensive truck of the same model. Unfortunately, after a year of good performance, the new truck was even worse. Instead of buying back the 2004 model under the Lemon Law, Ford would only “honor the warranty” by continuing to make repairs until the warranty expired. His business expired before the warranty. The second truck was in the shop for a total of 69 days after 7 stalls.

Lemon Law vs. Warranty Law

Most people know that the Delaware Lemon Law requires a manufacturer to repurchase or replace a consumer’s automobile if in 4 attempts in the first year, the vehicle fails to be successfully repaired for a condition that substantially impairs its use, value or safety. The Lemon Law also applies a deduction for the use a vehicle has had prior to the first report of the problem that makes it a Lemon. (This “allowance for use” applies when a consumer demands a repurchase of the lemon automobile, not when the consumer demands a replacement automobile.) The farrier had already been given a replacement pickup, but the replacement was just as bad, and, after 7 repair attempts, it cost him all of his best clients. He demanded that Ford and the Dealer buy back the pickup truck. However, the problem had not started until the truck had been driven 70,000 miles. So, if the farrier employed the Lemon Law, he would only recover 30% of the purchase price. Instead, he cancelled the sale under the Uniform Commercial Code, the general warranty law that governs all “goods” not just automobiles, like the Lemon Law. The Uniform Commercial Code has no provision for an “allowance for use.”

Ford complained that because the farrier used his truck for his business, he should not be allowed to have his attorney’s fees paid by Ford under the Federal Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, which only applies to consumer products. The farrier argued that since it is not unusual for consumers to use the King Ranch truck for towing boats, horse trailers, or recreational trailers, it was a consumer product. A jury agreed.

After hearing the farrier’s tale, a jury awarded the farrier the cancellation of the sale that he requested, and awarded him the full purchase price of the truck. Because of all that he endured and the near financial ruin the truck initiated, the jury awarded $40,000 for his “aggravation and inconvenience.” Because Ford was notified of his complaints about the truck, and was aware of 12,000 complaints from others with the same engine, the jury agreed that repossessing his truck months after the suit was filed when he was trying to cancel the sale, was too much. The jury awarded $12,000 in punitive damages. In total, the jury returned a verdict telling Ford to pay the farrier $103,000. Ford is also responsible for paying the farrier’s attorney’s fees and interest on the judgment, sums that will be determined by a judge, not a jury.

Sometimes the Lemon Law, good as it is, is just not good enough.

The following article is informational only and not intended as legal advice. Speak with a licensed attorney about your own specific situation. © Copyright 2011 MacElree Harvey, Ltd. All rights reserved.