Many of my clients who are fed up with their vehicles have asked me if they can legally drop it off or leave it in the dealer's service department permanently. Then, simply demand their money back. The answer is complicated and explained below. Some of the law gets technical, but my conclusion is very user-friendly and easy to understand.
Client is involved in a dangerous incident involving the vehicle. It broke down in an intersection. Or, it stalled and failed to start and left the client stranded. Or, the client was almost involved in a serious accident. Or, it had to be towed to the dealership for some other reason.
Client is experiencing repeated safety-related issues involving the vehicle. For example, any of the following:
traction control/stability control
forward collision warning
lane departure/lane assist
Client is experiencing repeated repair attempts without resolution of the problem. The dealer service department simply cannot find or cannot resolve the defects.
Client has been waiting for parts for an excessive period of time. The vehicle sits at the dealership for weeks or months. This has become very common over the past two years.
These scenarios lead to stress and reasonable questions about the safety or reliability of the vehicle. My clients wonder how the manufacturer or dealership can do this to them. My clients want to know that the vehicle will be permanently fixed. My clients end up contacting the manufacturer and getting the runaround, or sometimes, no return calls and no reasonable response at all. My clients tell me that the dealership service department is no help. Finally, some of my clients ask me: "Can I just leave it at the dealer or park it? I don't want this vehicle anymore."
Yes, if done within a "reasonable" time frame, under certain circumstances and with proper legal notice, you can drop your vehicle at the dealer or otherwise stop driving it if you've experienced any of the above scenarios. But it's an extreme legal strategy and most times is not the best or quickest way to get you out of your Lemon vehicle.
Revocation, or the remedy of rescission, are covered by the Uniform Commercial Code, (UCC). The UCC is a law the governs the sale of goods, including motor vehicles. It's different than the Lemon Law, but often included as a separate cause of action in Lemon lawsuits.
Revocation, (UCC 2-608; MCLA 440.2608), generally provides that a purchaser or lessee may "revoke acceptance" of goods that substantially impair its value to the purchaser. However, revocation must occur within a reasonable time after the purchaser discovers or should have discovered the ground for revocation. Also, revocation must occur before any substantial change in condition of the goods which is not caused by their own defects. Revocation is not effective until the seller, (dealership), is notified. This notification should be in writing. And importantly, the purchaser who revoked acceptance has the same rights and duties with regard to the goods involved as if he/she had rejected them.
In the real world, the above requirements may be difficult to achieve if you bought a Lemon. The language above can be confusing and like most laws, subject to various interpretation. Here, in sum, is what has to happen to legally allow you to revoke acceptance and leave your vehicle at the dealer:
- Substantial impairment of the value of the vehicle;
- Must revoke acceptance within a reasonable time;
- No change in condition of the vehicle;
- Must notify the seller (preferably in writing) prior to revocation; and
- Same duties as if the buyer rejected the goods
These 5 requirements have been discussed and argued in Michigan courts for 50 years or so. During that time, courts have provided a very general outline of the meaning of these requirements. Keep in mind no lawyer can tell you ahead of time whether, for certain, your vehicle may qualify for revocation. It's case by case and very fact-intensive.
Substantial Impairment of the Value of the Vehicle
In order to meet this test, the buyer must show that the nonconformity has a devaluing effect on him and that the buyer's assessment is factually correct. Colonial Dodge, Inc v Miller, 420 Mich 452, 458; 362 NW2d 704 (1984).
Within a Reasonable Time
In Kelynack v. Yamaha, 152 Mich. App. 105 (1986) 394 N.W.2d 17, Plaintiff first learned that his Yamaha engine had seized on August 20, 1981. Plaintiff revoked by letter on October 29, 1981. The court found the notice of revocation was given within a reasonable time. This is about 2 1/2 months. When the purchaser "discovers or should have discovered the ground for revocation" is the standard. Other cases have reached different conclusions. The best advice for consumers is to notify the seller as soon as possible when you want out of your vehicle and your money back.
- No Change in Condition
If your vehicle is damaged or substantially used, the court may find that it has changed too much to support a revocation of acceptance.
- Must Notify the Seller
This must occur prior to revocation and to presumably allow the dealer to cure the defect
- Same Duties as if Rejected Goods
This is legal talk. What this means is that upon revocation, the purchaser must hold the goods with reasonable care for a reasonable time. If no instructions are provided by the seller with respect to the goods within a reasonable time, the purchaser may store the goods, ship them to the seller, or dispose of them and reimburse the seller.
These rules were originally drafted for commercial transactions. They were designed for merchant sales and purchases, not for consumers. As a result, they don't precisely fit into the auto purchase experience. The word "goods" appears over and over in the UCC. The drafters had in mind things like sales of machine parts, nuts and bolts, and delivery of hundreds or thousands of units, rather than one automobile. As a result, applying the UCC to consumer transactions is tricky. Many court decisions have pointed this out. And yet, we are beholden to the precedent of commercial case law awkwardly forced into the realm of an unsophisticated consumer buying a vehicle from a professional seller.
But I digress. Dropping off or leaving the vehicle at the dealership is tempting for many of my clients. As a practical matter, this action creates problems that are difficult to juggle. What are you going to drive now? How will you get around? Most of my clients don't have an extra vehicle to drive and they often can't afford to simply buy another one, considering they are making a monthly payment on the defective vehicle. And even if you have another vehicle, stopping payment on the defective vehicle will damage your credit. The bank wants their money. Most often they are not willing to provide a forbearance or other delay in enforcing their lien interest in the vehicle. And it gets even more chaotic if the bank repossesses the vehicle. You risk turning a defective auto lawsuit into a very complex and time-consuming litigation.
Also, the dealership may object to having your vehicle stay on their property. I've seen dealers charge daily storage fees, call local authorities and report an abandoned vehicle, or call the creditor for repossession.
Conversely, keeping the vehicle after revocation has its own complications. The law allows the buyer the option to "hold the goods with reasonable care" after revocation. What does that mean? Some case law indicates that continuing to drive the vehicle after revocation is not reasonable. Other cases have permitted consumers to continue driving on a limited bases or for a short period of time. Arguably, the buyer may have to store the vehicle in a safe place while the legal system works to conclusion. But, again, most cannot afford to store their defective vehicle, get a replacement and make two auto payments.
If your vehicle is objectively dangerous to drive, don't drive it. But simply dropping your vehicle off at the dealership because you are not satisfied with it not easy to pull off. I don't advise it and I counsel my clients to consider all of the above factors in making this very important decision.