Maryland's highest court has refused to reinstate a lemon-law suit that was based on a manufacturer's alleged failure to repair a defect after the car was repeatedly brought back to the selling dealership for service.
It is the first time the Maryland Court of Appeals has interpreted a manufacturer's obligations for leased vehicles.
In 1987, the Maryland legislature expanded the warranty provisions of the lemon law to include leases.
Thomas Murphy sued General Motors and Chesapeake Cadillac-Jaguar of Cockeysville after the dealership made several unsuccessful attempts to fix a hesitation problem with his new 1996 Cadillac Seville STS. Murphy claimed the car stalled, sometimes in dangerous spots such as a highway ramp and at a traffic light.
Service technicians were unable to duplicate the problem.
GM ultimately agreed to provide a recalibration chip, but Murphy canceled the lease when he was told it would take another six days to have the chip installed.
The unanimous appeals court decision upheld a Baltimore County trial judge's ruling in favor of the defense, including a finding that Murphy had failed to give GM a reasonable number of opportunities to correct the defect.
'The problems were assuredly inconvenient and frustrating,' the court said, but a six-day wait to have the car serviced would have been reasonable.
GM spokesman Terry Rhadigan said the company is pleased by the decision.
'GM believes the court correctly ruled that Mr. Murphy did not allow GM a reasonable number of attempts to repair the vehicle in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Maryland Lemon Law.'
Murphy's lawyer, Thomas Bodie of Towson, said that although his client lost, the decision will benefit consumers who lease vehicles.
That, he said, is because the court said the law treats authorized dealerships as manufacturer's agents for lemon-law purposes.