A federal appeals court has upheld more than $93,400 in damages on lemon law and warranty claims involving a 2001 Mercedes S500.
"From day one," the car, purchased at a Nevada dealership for $98,722.25, "exhibited a number of aesthetic and mechanical problems," the court said. In the first seven months, the court noted, the car needed repairs under warranty to all four brake rotors, a side window and mirror, the remote entry system and the rear window seal and molding. Three attempts to fix the rear window were unsuccessful, the court said.
Marina Milicevic bought the car from Fletcher Jones Imports Ltd. in Las Vegas. It was in the dealership's repair shop for 55 days over seven months, including 31 days when it sat at the dealership awaiting parts, the court said.
At that point Milicevic asked Mercedes-Benz USA LLC to replace the car or to reimburse her, but the company failed to respond to the letter or follow-up phone calls, said plaintiff's lawyer Christopher Gellner of Las Vegas.
Milicevic sued, and the dealership and Mercedes-Benz denied liability. After a nonjury trial, U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt awarded Milicevic $93,423.51 in damages - the purchase price of the car less an amount for reasonable use of the vehicle. She also was awarded $11,400 in attorney fees.
In upholding the award, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said that "after a reasonable number of attempts at repair had been made, a reasonable person would have found the use and value of the car substantially impaired, as did Milicevic."
In the opinion written by Judge Carlos Bea, the three-member panel rejected the defense argument that the 31 days the car was waiting for parts shouldn't be counted.
"Milicevic had no control over the ordering of the parts, nor was she in a position to know how long the necessary parts would take to arrive. She left her car at Fletcher Jones while the parts were on order because she was told the repair would take only a few days," the court said, noting that the dealership had ordered the wrong part for the window seal.
Gellner said that including the time spent in the dealership waiting for parts is significant. Nevada law recognizes that a new vehicle that is out of service for repairs for at least 30 days in the first year is a lemon.
Said Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman Donna Boland: "Although we disagree with this decision, we have decided against any further action."
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