Illinois lemon RV ruling may be a game-changer

19

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

A decision by the Illinois Supreme Court has likely frightened the daylights out of U.S. RV manufacturers. While the industry has been not-so-quietly touting its prowess in lobbying states to ensure RVs don’t come under Lemon Laws, the Illinois decision simply stands that work on its head.

The case ended up before the high court after Kimberly Accettura and Adam Wozniak had a run-in with a dealer, Vacationland, Inc. In 2014 the couple bought a new RV, drove it off the lot, and within two months, discovered a leaky window. The dealer offered to fix the problem; but a month later, more leaky windows allowed water into the rig, causing extensive damage.

Vacationland inspected the RV and told the couple that it couldn’t do the repair; the unit would have to be sent back to the manufacturer. Of course, the question every buyer would have is: “How long will that take?” Neither the dealer nor the manufacturer could say how long the couple would be without their rig while repairs were done. The RV sat on the lot for an additional two weeks before it was ever shipped back for the repair work.

Three weeks after having sent their defective rig back to Vacationland, Kimberly and Adam decided they’d had enough. They called the dealer and told them the deal was off, they were revoking their acceptance of the RV, and demanded a refund of their money.

Presumably this left Vacationland staff speechless, because some six weeks later, the couple got a phone call advising them their RV had been repaired, and that they should pick it up. Kimberly and Adam got an attorney, who fired off a letter to the dealer demanding a refund of the purchase money, and making it perfectly clear the RV was rejected. They followed up later with a suit filed in county court, asking for the purchase price and damages.

Uniform Commerical Code
Coolcaesar at English Wikipedia

It took a long time for the case to work its way through the court system. Under the couple’s lawyer’s view, they were protected by a provision of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) – which all 50 states use as a legal guideline for business conduct. Therein, the UCC states that a legal revocation of a purchase can take place if one of two conditions are met: Either the customer knew that a purchase was defective, but had been assured the problem would be righted; or, the customer did not know of a defect, but later learned of it. Vacationland admitted that Kimberly and Adam were NOT aware of defects in the RV.

At the same time, Vacationland’s attorneys held that “under law” they had time to make repairs, thus voiding any rejection on the part of their customers. True, agreed the customers, but ONLY if we knew there were defects and understood they would be repaired. But in their case, they weren’t aware of the defects, and under the UCC the dealership didn’t have the luxury of making repairs.

The Illinois high court took the view of Kimberly and Adam. “We agree with [the plaintiffs’] interpretation,” Justice Rita B. Garman wrote in the court’s unanimous opinion. “We find this language plain and … subsection (1)(b) [of the UCC] does not require that a buyer give the seller an opportunity to cure.” They tossed out Vacationland’s argument that since the couple had brought the RV in for repairs, then they had to wait and allow the repairs to be made.

The high court has remanded the case to a lower court, presumably for that court to do the dirty work of determining damages, and making the order for both those, attorney fees, and the original purchase price to be typed up on a check.

Steve Lehto, a Michigan attorney who focuses on Lemon Law issues, sees this as great news for RV buyers, and a decision that will likely send RV manufacturers into a tizzy. His reasoning is that state courts often look at precedent even when decided in a different jurisdiction. If you have a “Lemon” RV issue, this approach could be one that might work for you. He does caution that a note in the UCC indicates that “time is of the essence.” While under the UCC a customer can indeed revoke the acceptance of defective purchases, it must be done “within a reasonable time” of the discovery of the defect.

Lehto recommends that RV buyers with a defective rig consult with a local attorney, but be sure to point to the Illinois decision as a potential point in litigation. And keep in mind, you’ll likely be without your money for a long time, even if a court were to rule in your favor. For Kimberly and Adam, it was close to five years – and they’re still waiting for the lower court to order their repayment be made. If you’ve financed the RV, you’ll likely still be on the hook for payments until the case is settled.

Still, this positive ruling from Illinois may well have plowed the ground for favorable decisions elsewhere. If nothing else, it may give the RV manufacturing community enough of a fright that they start paying some much-overdue attention to quality control on their manufacturing lines.

RELATED: RVers awarded $500,000 in Winnebago “lemon” lawsuit.

Subscribe
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

19 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Bernice Tennant
7 months ago

I am so glad this was posted. We had a terrible frightening experience after almost buying a Thor RV in Pa. My husband was distracted by employees while I personally investigated some odd things. RV had many, many things wrong with it including hole under the drivers seat where you could see to the ground, leaky vents (they said it came from washing it?), water caught in the lights in the outside rear, a slide out with a gap you could put your fingers in. and more. If not for a faulty seat belt, we would have been stuck with a real lemon that had so many problems it boggled our minds. Always look closely when you are spending enough money to buy some houses on an RV.

Dorothy Bishop
7 months ago

I sure hope so we bought a avenger new in 2018 an it’s been one headache after another first like the rest it started leaking, then no hot water for three months, next spent the hottest months on record in Texas where we moved after purchase of rv with no ac one window on the rv was even cut to small for the frame we’ve had a bad time an just get a run arounf

Jeff
8 months ago

This article has been reported in several different publications and internet websites and unfortunately people are posting the information as though this is a US Supreme Court Decision! IT IS NOT! It is an Illinois State Supreme Court Decision and while it is precedent setting, only affects those people in the State of Illinois!

The precedent can be referenced in lawsuits around the US in other states, but will still have to run the gambit of each states court system, from the lowest court, up to the highest court in that state.

The RV industry needs a wake up call once and awhile, However, the RV Industry knows all to well that they can simply wait people (RV Owners) out until they run out of money or just get sick and tired of the legal and court process!

To Quote Yakov Smirnoff: “WHAT A COUNTRY”!

Sharon B
8 months ago

Halleluja!

Gary
8 months ago

The last sentence of the article is the most encouraging. The greater the likelihood that mfg’s will have to eat grossly defective campers, the better the chance they’ll improve their QC before they let a camper out the door. There probably will be an increase in cost. However competition should still be a balancing force between cost and better assurance the buyer will get an acceptable quality product.

Elaine Ashton
8 months ago

RIGHT ON … a step in the right direction at least

Suzan
8 months ago

It is about time.

Impavid
8 months ago

In the jurisdiction in which I live, the statutes state when you buy something you have a reasonable expectation of use. This even applies to items you buy at a garage sale. The exception is when an issue is disclosed at the time of purchase or an item is sold for “parts only”.

TERRY WILSON
8 months ago
Reply to  Impavid

sold as is at my yard sale..

Gary Swope
8 months ago

I hope this couple also asked and will receive interest on their money that is being tied up until the court finalizes damages and they get what is due them.

Billy Bob Thorton
8 months ago

Unfortunately this will not effect the RV industry much and heres why; 1. How many buyers are going to litigate using the UCC as their argument. 2. The lawyer you hire will most likely not take the case contingent, meaning it’s pay more to the lawyer to hopefully arrive at a agreement to get your money back ( in this case 5yrs+), in your state with attorneys fees added.. 3. As you are in dispute, your opportunity use is gone, so what do you do, go buy another one and have double payments ( chance of that slim to none), so you can take the kids, whom are growing up as you wait! The lawyer referenced in the article is actually very interesting to watch on YouTube, and has many good points regarding the litigis society we all live in, how things work, interms the non- lawyer ( you know us, the unwashed) can understand. Yes, certainly case law has weight in any litigation, but that decision in liberal Illinois even ref. UCC, may not be the same outcome in say conservative Utah. Only time will tell on that one. Case in point, the moderate US supreme court ruled on eminate domain powers against a land owner, they took his property, so some guy could build a friggin mall. Which evidently never got built anyway. Smoke that for awhile on right and wrong.

Sure, the RV industry has problems, and it’s a very complex thing to have multiple systems, heat, AC, electrical, plumbing, the list goes on, moving down the road, twisting and turning to all function and stay together. If it’s shoddy workmanship from the get go, you should be upset, but if you think this is going to change anytime soon, I think you’re sorely mistaken, but I would love to be proved wrong.

Eldon Peterson
8 months ago

So my question is: how long do you have after you discover the defect and if the warranty is expired to file a claim under this law. We’ve been trying to get KZ to realize our camper was defective from the start with the plywood on the roof coming loose and tearing the roof fabric causing water to start the delamination process. We were told it was a brand new camper when we bought it, the warranty went into effect when the camper is bought and 3 years we noticed the tear in the fabric and the side wall coming apart. KZ says they are not going to do anything about it.
Thanks Eldon

Dennis
8 months ago
Reply to  Eldon Peterson

Eldon, I feel your pain. But, I learned on my first fifth wheel back in 2000 that it is vital that you do frequent, and I mean very frequent, inspections of every seal on a unit. I was ignorant of the whole RV quality issues and had water intrusion problems. We were full-time so this unit was on the road. These frames twist and turn as you travel over gas station curbs or coming out of a friends driveway etc. I’m sorry you had this problem as we all dream of all the great things about RVing. My suggestion to anyone getting into RVing is to buy a two pronged moisture meter and if you can find or borrow a FLIR (infrared) sensor and go all over the unit looking for spots. The best money you can spend if you are serious about getting an RV. IMHO Good Luck!!!

Merrit
8 months ago
Reply to  Eldon Peterson

Tell KZ that you are going to get a hold of Trailer Life. If they do not respond. Do It.

Booneyrat
8 months ago

American RV manufacturers have been shoving junk out the door for years.Since work ethics,and morals,went out the door long ago,no one cares about the end product anymore,and it does not apply to just RV’s. Since I got stuck with TWO new lemon fifth wheels,I have given up on anything new anymore.Y’all can have it.

Fox
8 months ago

This is good news. BUT I can see this decision dramatically increasing the cost of a new RV.

Roger
8 months ago
Reply to  Fox

IF that increase is paying for real quality improvements, I’m all for it. Have always been willing to pay premium prices for long lasting quality products. IF it’s just paying for more legal teams to fight the lawsuits, well, the death spiral of RV manufacturing is sure to continue.

Tommy Molnar
8 months ago
Reply to  Fox

I too would be willing to pay a little more for quality. Maybe even a LOT more. It may mean fewer sales of RV’s but I don’t see ANY downside to that. Fewer people trying to get into RV parks and other camping venues. Not everyone can or should own an RV. Simple as that.

Billy Bob Thorton
8 months ago
Reply to  Fox

Actually no, and here’s why. 1. Budget minded families, who buys el-cheapo trailer will always be there. Every walk those RV shows your local dealers get together and have a sale. Yeah those, and there not going away. 2. You put too much litigation in place on that industry, and a number of manufactures will just fold up. Outcome; less choice. Less choice, certain buyers are pushed out of the market due to price point. 3. Your average buyer who has problems wil not hire a lawyer to sue, as those guys are not going to take your case contingent. Yeah there might be a deep pockets guy who can wait the five years and mounting legal costs to get his purchase monies back, but those odds are slim. Look for a case to be decided then other way in a more conservative state. UCC aside, this is just how things are, so get handy and fix most of the stuff yourself. Deal with a reputable dealer who will go to bat for you with the manufacturer for the big ticket stuff.

You want a healthy industry, keep in mind whose putting money in your pockets, decisions need to be made, and it’s NEVER a good idea to have courts run a muck, deciding the fate of any industry.